Album Review: Pacer – “No. 1”

They say that size doesn’t matter, but Pacer‘s debut release “No. 1” is 10 inches (of vinyl) that I’ll never forget. With 7 kinetic punk tracks crammed into just over 15 minutes, I was initially worried that the short length of the record wasn’t going to supply me with enough substance to gain an adequate understanding of this up-and-coming band from London, England. Boy was I ever wrong. Pacer’s brand of straightforward, genuine punk rock is perfectly showcased in short format. I believe Polonius said it best in Hamlet when he famously quoted that “Brevity is the soul of Awesomeness”… or something like that.

The album plays out like an accidentaly introspective handwritten letter, stamped and addressed to a long lost friend, through which writing you learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible. It also doesn’t have a single weak track on it. The first song, “Circles around a Square”, is a strong opener that introduces us to Mark’s gruff yet endearing vocals. While not the most interesting song on the album musically, it’s definitely the most unique effort lyrically. Imagery referencing geometry, which begins in the title and is worked skillfully into the body of the lyrics (“Turn a corner”, “See this from the right angel”, “Our symmetries near enough perfect”), emphasises the songs message of empathy and hope in a less than perfect world (a theme that is carried throughout the album). What most impresses me about this song is the thoughtfulness and almost academic layering present in the lyrics, something which is rarely found in modern music, let alone Punk Rock.

The next track “XGU16X” bites a bit harder musically but still offers the same positive encouragement as the previous song. This hope-despite-despair attitude is what makes the record a perfect fit for Chunksaah Records, which was founded by the eternal optimists themselves, the Bouncing Souls. The popping bass line, reminiscent of The Descendents, hints at the bands’ pop-punk influences, but the harsher vocals add a unique spin to the bands’ overall sound.

“Rediscovering the Telephone” was an instant favourite of mine, thanks to it’s aurally intense opening vocals and catchy chorus. This track will remain on my summer road trip playlist for years to come.

The brash and desperate self-reassurance of “Everything’s Fine” could easily fit in with the current American Midwest punk scene along the likes of Dear Landlord or Off With Their Heads.

A welcome decrease in tempo comes with “Pasternak”, putting Mark’s emotionally charged vocals at centre stage.

Directly after the slowest jam on the record comes the perfectly contrasted, musical bombardment that is “Lonely Critics”, the fastest, roughest and most face-melting song on the album. The lightning quick drumming is the kind that I crave on every punk record, and shouts to those listening that Pacer truly knows how to rock the fuck out.

“The Long Drop” closes out the record, but while Mark claims that he is “tired of singing these platitudes”, the song (and entire album) feels far from prosaic.

Like any great punk rock record, Pacer’s “No. 1” assaults the senses with urgency, emotion and a desire to be heard. Timely bursts of backing vocals and harmonies add a fullness to the songs that beg the listener to shout along with the lyrics. Pacer’s “No. 1” is a record that has a diverse array of sounds present within it, giving the band a fully stocked arsenal with which to explore their first full length release, which I am so excited for I just might pee myself.

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