Having followed Paul McCoy and his band 12 Stones since their self-titled debut a decade ago, I was eager to spin their latest, Beneath the Scars. While the band has undergone some changes in the last two years (leaving Wind-Up Records, bassist Kevin Dorr was replaced by Will Reed), the sound is ultimately the same: they’re a hard-rocking grunge band that rocks hard now and would’ve fit in the 1990s just as smoothly.
The first two tracks are classic “angry” 12 Stones. Both “Infected” and “Bulletproof” express disgust/distaste with the way that the world is. The first lays out the problem in our lifestyles, while the second calls for a revolution in the way we think. “For The Night” gets melodic and upbeat, calling for a change… in a much more pleasant, calm way. It’s the dichotomy of 12 Stones: tense, hard rock full of frustration and a spirit that is ultimately hopeful.
I found “That Changes Everything” to be one of the more thought-provoking songs on the disc. There are a few AA references about trying to stay sober and working to make amends, but ultimately, it’s about recognizing that this life isn’t about us, but others. “I was ready to die till I saw you suffering,” belts out McCoy, “and that changes everything.” It’s a paradigm shift that is ultimately about becoming self-less, and it’s one of the most beautiful songs on the album.
Maybe it’s just wrapping up the Church calendar of Pentecost and Ascension, but “The One Thing,” sung by the Christian McCoy, certainly sounds like a song about the Holy Spirit. It’s another “rocker,” and it highlights the rush of being caught on fire from the inside out. Again, “Blind” cries out for salvation, with metaphors of light and dark, and the recognition that either the singer or the “other” must be lost to truly embrace life (a man must lose his life to find it…)
In the midst of other songs about hope or frustration (”Bury Me” to “Only Human”), “Psycho” is a party-rocking, drum-driven release of pure energy that will delight 12 Stones fans. “Someone Like You” falls back into the “angry” batch, but “Shine On Me” is much more of the hopeful side. Still, McCoy chooses to close with “Pretty Poison” which seems to speak to the addiction again, and I’m reminded that the lure of 12 Stones has always been the dichotomy between hope and falling.
We don’t all “fall” to the same things, but finding what picks us up, recognizing that Jesus Christ is always ready to catch us, determines whether we can cling to the hope or keep struggling with the darkness. McCoy has found that hope, but he knows the process is one day at a time, leaning on God and others to get him through, because no one can do it on their own.