As much as certain bands love to attach a gimmick to themselves to mask any musical shortcomings and bump up their number of clicks, ultimately the ones who stand the test of time get by through songwriting skill alone. Just look at the Foo Fighters or, to a slightly less extent, Green Day, two acts who have had uneven runs of quality in the past, but have managed to stay where they are thanks to the resonance their best material has had. By comparison, Dutch trio Paceshifters may be a long way from hitting those levels yet, but they’ve got the right idea at least; their fourth full-length Waiting To Derail may have next to no frills, but in terms of straight-down-the-middle rock music, this is hardly a bad option to go with.
And because this is such a straightforward listen, it limits the aspects that are really necessary to critique. Paceshifters are clearly shooting for big, uncomplicated anthems here, and as long as the songs fit those incredibly wide criteria, there’s no reason that this album can’t be deemed a success. And of the eleven tracks here, all of them do manage to some capacity, but Paceshifters still manage to do enough with them to move Waiting To Derail far beyond bog-standard rock territory. There’s more bite and meat to these tracks, finding a lot similarities with the more mainstream-friendly branches of ’90s Britrock; Stranger co-opts some of Stereophonics’ more uptempo material; Someday draws a healthy amount from Bush; and Exhausted even has a bit of Placebo in its stomping, squalling verses if you squint at it. Paceshifters clearly have no desire to be boxed in, but Waiting To Derail rarely feels messy or unfocused. There’s the same mid-paced crunch to the guitars all the way through, and even with the cherry-picked influences that span a not unsubstantial distance by themselves, the hefty foundations built into a rock-solid grunge base keep this album at its sturdiest.
If anything, the weakest link is maybe Seb Dokman’s vocal performance, often feeling slightly unhinged and untrained as it can waver on a track like Cut N Run, which does seem to be among the weaker cuts here. But even with that in mind, the scope that Paceshifters’ brand of rock embraces does save a lot, and with tracks tailor-made to ignore subtleties in favour of size like these, it circles back around to where an anthemic hook is where these tracks live and die upon. Dead Eyes and Yearning Desire especially stick out in this regard (seriously, with the right push and a single release, these would be smash hits on rock radio), but there’s not a lot on Waiting To Derail that honestly deviates away from that; it reveals itself as just a supremely solid listen from top to bottom.
On the downside, that offers very little to say about it, but when that’s the most prominent weakness, there’s not much to complain about here. With barely a bad song and a firm grasp on how to craft an anthem in an almost masterful fashion, Waiting To Derail sees Paceshifters tap into the most pure form of rock music and take it surprisingly far. There’s no reason the long-term results shouldn’t match their goals either; this is an enjoyable, accessible album that, given a bit more legwork, could see Paceshifters make a sizable impact. Definitely ones to keep an eye on here.
For fans of: Foo Fighters, Bush, Skunk Anansie
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Waiting To Derail’ by Paceshifters is released on 6th October on Hassle Records.