Album review: Coping Mechanism – Coping Mechanism

By Craig Howieson

The human spirit is not easily broken. An in-built defiance allows us to combat often incomprehensible struggles before we start to falter. But we all have different means of maintaining that balance and finding ways to sustain. 

When lives resemble a house on fire some people pray to be saved, hoping a rain is going to come. Others stoke the flames, craving oblivion in the shared destruction. There are those lucky enough to have others to lean on. And then there are those who make it through by creating something, whether that be for themselves or others, to channel their confusion and attempt to make sense of the nonsensical. It is this creative catharsis that drives Coping Mechanism, the moniker and title PAWS frontman Phillip Jon Taylor has chosen for his first record of solo material.

PAWS 2019 record ‘Your Church on My Bonfire’ closed with the 12-minute onslaught of ‘Not Goodbye (See You Later)’. A cataclysmic cacophony of post-rock guitars and spoken word monologue it brought the curtain down on their most finely tuned record to date. 

As Coping Mechanism it is immediately evident that musically this is an entirely different set of songs to that of his work with PAWS. None the less it is a piece of work that finds parallels with his previous output as opposed to being at odds with it. PAWS are notable for their starkly personnel, resonant lyrics set to loud guitars whose influences range from 90s alternative rock, pop-punk, post-hardcore and euphoric indie. Here Taylor has immersed himself in another world completely. For starters the record is mostly instrumental, displaying a newfound prowess in the manipulation of analogue synths, samples and minimalist ambience. Where Taylor succeeds is in finding the warmth and connection he usually establishes through his lyrics within his rolling soundscapes and swathes of electronica.

There is a sense of frustration and search for calm found within the record. On ‘The Internet Makes Me Feel Ugly’ an acoustic guitar strum flickers in and out of focus like the static lines of an old TV screen. The corruption of the guitar line hints at the search for the warmth we could find if we could only tear ourselves way from our screens for a minute to focus on something pure, without that peace being shattered by outside interference

The despondency and sorrowful disdain of ‘Silver Spooners’ gives way to something altogether more hopeful in ‘Desire Caught By The Tail’ which along with the gleefully wonky synths of ‘Lasso The Moon’ marries the off-kilter indie of Wolf Parade with Postal Service electronic beats as glitchy hearts are stolen away by twinkling guitar lines. On ‘Missing Person’ vocals buried in static are set against tumbling drums and wrapped within layer upon layer of synth. It is a beautiful moment of reflection, an opportunity to simultaneously mourn what’s lost while being thankful for having held it, even for the briefest moment. 

‘Coping Mechanism’ is a record reflecting Taylors surroundings. Recorded in the Highlands following a relocation from Glasgow the albums calming setting can be felt in the contemplative bliss of ‘If You Want I Could Carry You Home’ and ‘The Sun Does Not Know That It is a Star’. In providing a place in which to achieve the peace found in active listening, and allowing for absorption free from distraction, far from being background music ‘Coping Mechanism’ is a record with which to engage with, not only to discover it’s meaning but to also apply your own. 

There are cold, icy corners and some uncomfortable spaces but they are real and relatable, and ultimately human. ‘Coping Mechanism’ feels as much about hope as it does about the struggle to overcome. It is a record to take from what you need, but most importantly of all, it asks you to take some time to be good to yourself.

Coping Mechanism is out February 07 on Cath Records

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