PAW (Buy CDs by this artist)
Dragline (A&M) 1993
Death to Traitors (A&M) 1995
There was a brief window of time when record executives thought they could achieve instant nirvana by unearthing, well, instant Nirvana and bands in burgs big and small sought to position themselves under just enough of a grunge layer to at least give off a Seattle aroma. To be fair, this Lawrence, Kansas quartet developed its angst-ridden proto-metal sound far enough in advance of Nevermind's arrival (and far enough removed from hipster ground zero to walk around sporting old-fashioned beards instead of de rigueur goatees) that they can't really be called cash-in artists. Unfortunately, from the titanic triteness that permeates their records, they can't exactly be called trailblazers, either.
Paw's debut gives a wide berth to vocalist Mark Hennessy's raw-rubbed rasp, an instrument that proves most effective in putting across the high plains drift of squalid tales like "Gasoline" and "Pansy." His credibility as a backwoodsman isn't all that high unless you view the University of Kansas as being on a par with Leavenworth in terms of its hardening quality. Much of the quartet's sonic heft emanates from the formidable drum-pounding of Peter Fitch, whose brother Grant hammers out echo-drenched guitar riffs that revisit a limited number of arena-rock clichés with alarming frequency.
Death to Traitors curbs the metallic agitation to a large degree: that's both its greatest strength and biggest failing. With the intensity turned down a notch, Hennessy has more room to maneuver vocally, which endows "Hope I Die Tonight" with a good deal of passion. In the process, however, Paw surrenders the anthemic attributes that helped mask the emptiness beneath the cavernous shells of their songs proof that bigger isn't always better.[David Sprague]
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