PAWS start Youth Culture Forever starts just as sombre sounding like a stoned-off-their-tits Teenage Fanclub singing cheery lines as “Do you know what it's like? To sit there in stone watching your best friends die.”. These emotionally bare lyrics hidden behind the huge guitars and distorted vocals is another feather to PAWS' bow.
The album then speeds up with fun and instantly catchy tracks, 'Tongues', 'Someone New' and the colourfully titled 'Owl Talons Clutching At My Heart'. 'Cokefloat' drew a great deal of comparison to 90s bands like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr., however, these tracks seem to have more in common with recent bands like The Cribs and The Vaccines. These tracks are incredibly fun and are among the best songs on the album.
The next two tracks have a very low lyric count. While the lyrical minimalism adds to, acoustic ballad, Alone's vulnerability, the elongated “Give up! Give u-u-u-u-up! Give up!” in 'Give Up' only really comes across as lazy songwriting. This unfortunately carries on through the album in Narcissist and Let's All Let Go.
Alone ends the upbeat danceable music on the past five tracks. The track features Taylor urging his subject not to commit suicide. So, yeah... there goes my buzz. The first two thirds of the track are sang and played alone by Philip Taylor with the band coming in on the third. A more satisfying release for the tension built up throughout the track may have been to play one chorus once the band had joined in.
PAWS return to their dancy catchy punk on the next three tracks. An Honest Romance would be a singalong anthem if only it were possible to decipher the chorus's lyrics. Narcissist and Let's All Go are fun but are perhaps too similar to Give Up.
'Great Bear', a short repetitive instrumental track which does very little for this writer, is followed by almost the title track 'YCF'. YCF is a another acoustic track played by Taylor which talk about returning to his home town which he does not look to kindly upon. The track displays wry lyricism with lines like “I know I said this in a song before but fuck it, life goes on.” It isn't clear whether the album's titular line is sarcastic or whether it's describing the feeling of youth more as a curse. It isn't a celebration of youth, anyway.
Album closer, 'Warcry' transitions from an very intimate solo performance from Taylor (throat clears and everything) to just fuck off riffage. As Taylor closes the second solo section with “Hear my warcry sui... cide”, waiting for the drop is incredibly exciting. Howevever, the track is 11 minutes long. After two minutes, the vocals have finished. After another three minutes of guitars with a tonne of delay and reverb on them playing over the same bass line, you just want the song to end. The track only comes across as self-indulgence.
Youth Culture Forever sets a balance between punky, insanely catchy pop and dreary solo tracks with grungy anthems opening and closing the album. It is a far more ambitious effort than it's predesson and, therefore, makes more false steps. However, the choruses are better than on 'Cokefloat', the lyrics are frequently brilliant and there a lot of interesting risks taken.