I remember when The Steal released their self-titled album eight years ago now (ugggh), and the impact it had on the scene around me. At a time when US punk and hardcore bands dominated everything and UK acts were grateful just to be their support, along came these guys – one of our own and every bit as good as the competition. Their live shows went nuts, they headlined wherever they went, and everyone knew the words.
Like Stateside cousins Kid Dynamite their reign was short but their legacy far-reaching, and whilst their flame lit the torch for new British bands to follow, from their ashes rose Pacer. Vocalist Mark Pavey and Banquet Records founder Dave House teamed up with John Hayler, Mike Turner and Chris Pellant to form a band that whilst not being quite the force of nature that their previous incarnation had been, retained much of the same characteristics.
I must admit that I never gave the first Pacer full-length my time, which is a criminal offence I know, so my analysis of their second won’t be a comparative but a stand-alone verdict. The first thing that really grabbed me was how much it sounded like one of those classic Household Name releases from the last ten years. It’s full of punch and power and sometimes anger, but never loses its sense of fun and positivity, and this was the trademark that made all shows their bands were involved with such happy memories.
Pacer are everything their name suggests – fast and urgent melodic punk with those sharp, crisp and aggressive vocals that Pavey is so very effective at producing. ‘Mariner’ is the anthemic, break-neck opener before title track ‘Mechanical’ kicks in, an absolutely wonderful tune that is pure Oskar worship and will have you hitting repeat over and over.
‘Stupid Things’ has the feel of a real classic noughties UK punk track, catchy and clever but ultimately not taking itself too seriously, and the melody on the chorus has just the slightest suggestion of A Wilhelm Scream in the vocal which gives it a lovely cutting edge. Meanwhile on the hundred-miles-an-hour number ‘Weird Ways’ Pavey declares “Forget the old days, I’ll find my own way”, which is the real message of this album: don’t dwell on the past – move forwards.
The cynical would describe ‘Mechanical’ as pure Fest fodder, and well, they’d probably be half right. Because whilst Pacer do take everything we already love about melodic punk and fuse it together, what actually comes out is very much a creation of their own making rather than anything borrowed or plagiarised. Pacer give their sound the same stamp of authority we remember from The Steal – and if they can be half as influential then they can consider it a huge achievement.
‘Mechanical’ by Pacer is out now Everything Sucks Music.
Words by Alex Phelan (@listen_to_alex)