Paw: Dragline

Overlooked grunge-era debut: wrong place, wrong time.

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Like the tornado that took Dorothy’s house away in The Wizard Of Oz, Paw came out of the Kansas countryside like a force of nature. The band were born on the cusp of a pivotal time for rock music in the US: 1990.

The glam era had already died on the vine and musicians were quitting Los Angeles quicker for the North West, where grunge was becoming an all-consuming, plaid-draped behemoth. No wonder the new decade was so confused musically.

Geographic isolation may have been what saved Paw. Within three years of forming, they’d honed a sound that could have made A&R men think ‘Nirvana’ (and resulted in a bidding war), but was probably closer to the ramshackle fuzz of Dinosaur Jr. And like J. Mascis, they weren’t above mining their own lives for source material – a runaway dog, the local fishing hole, a near-fatal car crash – but theirs was a raw poetry that connected hard with their audience.

Their artwork, too, was sepia-tinted or monochrome – isolated barns, kids sat out at the edge of the dock. Their record sleeves looked like they could be the cover of a Sam Shepard novel, but it fitted the zeitgeist nicely.

They were at their most ferocious in the ragged, fuzz-filled, melody-drenched burst of songs like Jessie, Gasoline, the haunting title track or the punchy Couldn’t Know. Shame, then, that their legacy was washed away with grunge as it finally retreated out of sight./o:p

Philip Wilding

Philip Wilding is a novelist, journalist, scriptwriter, biographer and radio producer. As a young journalist he criss-crossed most of the United States with bands like Motley Crue, Kiss and Poison (think the Almost Famous movie but with more hairspray). More latterly, he’s sat down to chat with bands like the slightly more erudite Manic Street Preachers, Afghan Whigs, Rush and Marillion.