I shall start this review with a confession. One in which I’ll admit that I originally dismissed Pacer because they sounded nothing like The Steal. This of course is completely retarded. Firstly because Pacer aren’t The Steal (although some members of the latter are now in the former), and secondly as i made this judgment not on the merit of their music, but through some shameful thoughtless prejudice. A prejudice that if I could attribute to anything, would probably be to the personal connection I felt with the themes and delivery of their self titled ’06 album and their ferocious DIY ethic. It really spoke to early-20’s-me, pissed off at the cool punk kids who only went to shows on weekends, and trying unsuccessfully to write fuck-you punk songs at 900 miles an hour. It is a testament to Pacer then – and an enormous slice of humble pie for myself – that nearly 7 years later they have delivered another album that speaks directly to my thoughts and feelings.
Opener ‘Be a man’ sets the precedent for what to expect in the album. Its a cocktail of all the elements that make a perfect punk rock song. Singer Mark delivers his vocals like gravel fired through a rainbow which winks at the character of Milo from Descendants, who incidentally are a band I think Pacer have taken a few nods at. However, it would be unfair to use Descendants as a solitary comparison to Pacer’s sound, as it is so much more than that. Yes, they have a nonthreatening upbeat pop-punk vibe, but its gruff and dirty in a way that only the British underground seems to be able to pull off (I’m talking Bangers/Arteries/Caves territory here). I really love how the chord sequences change to suit the emotions of the story thats being told in their songs. A good example being in the song ‘Roads’ which starts with a cheeky stop/start pop-punk riff before throwing you in a big pool of honest lyrics about friendships turned acquaintances turned memories.
There is clearly a lot of experience behind the members of Pacer. Take only guitarist David House as an example. Here you have a man who has 3 solo albums under his belt alongside split EPs with the likes of Get Cape Wear Cape fly, and this is before you even mention the overseas touring that the Steal did. This experience then, while perhaps not being unique (or even important to some), is integrated wonderfully into the bands music in a way that no-one else has achieved in making me pick out as a quality. For me this is most poignant in the tracks ‘Flags’ and title song ‘Making Plans’, where lyrically the band seem to be acknowledging the past, giving it a proper burial and moving on to better things, as one might do for a particularly fond grandparent (a sort of musical circle of life if you will). The imagery of shirts from a bygone age as flags is one that i think anybody who has grown up going to shows can relate to, and its parts like these that really help you grow a personal attachment to the music. Its all so delightfully simple and unpretentious, but true and most importantly great to listen to. On top of all this you never get the sense that the music compromises the theme of the song. This is all too easy to do in punk rock, you can feel like you are screaming about sticking it to the man but find you are just shouting about being mugged off by a chick from secondary school.
My favourite track on Making Plans has to be ‘Red Shirts’. It is the epitome of everything that is great about Pacer in a nice little bundle. At heart it is a song about the pitfalls of young love, and the simple honesty of its delivery really packs a punch. The music and the lyrics create a rather hopeless and sad atmosphere which would be off putting if it wasn’t so touching. ‘Honestly I’m telling you it will get better?’ we are told as the the song switches track and steals towards its uplifting conclusion. Its this transition from desperation to elation without the band really having changed anything at all that really makes this song so great to me, and if you can relate to it, all the better.
I’m going to go wild and say that Making Plans by Pacer is probably my favourite record in this particular genre of music. It isn’t really breaking new ground but I don’t think that was ever the point. What you have here is a punk record made great through a combination of honesty and experience, delivered in a thoughtfully simple way over some absolutely killer riffs. Its so easy to like if you can relate to the songs, but even when viewed purely objectively, this is a brilliant album full of catchy punk songs that anyone who is a fan of the genre would have to try hard not to like. Buy this now, but more importantly get out the fucking house and go watch them live.
– You can catch Matt jumping about and screaming with his math hardcore band Stillbust