The new album Spectacle 1 by Push Button Press came to me courtesy of Andreas Herrmann of Cold Transmission. I feel like everything Andy has been backing in the post punk scene has been an automatically must hear album and this did not disappoint. Hailing from Tampa Florida PBP has created a complete concept album which uses dynamic and crisp songs which expose themselves in a fearless and genuine manner. These are the songs of a painter creating images with texture and sound. The music has a city feel. Hard concrete and sharp angles. This music breathes and expands with life, but shadowed by a dark tone and stark realism with challenging depth.
Lets talk about what stood out to me in this album. I related so much to the vocals and the lyrics of this album. Jim is not trying to sound like something he has heard before. I feel the authenticity of his tone and emotion. This is an album where the voice you are hearing is not someone trying to create an image or previously created sound. It is a artist laying himself barren with his glory and flaws in a heroic bareness. His cadence is emotional but within a contained timber. While these baselines bellow and creep with a heavy and driving force. The Guitars striking and feinting in a fencers dance. Creating such a roller coaster of volume and intensity. Those rhythmic vocals maintain their tone and desperation. A lot of the album strays into different genres like Mire and The Sea’s dance club beats but those vocals are what never lets this album escape that concept of a post punk landscape. That constant contrast and mental challenge are what adds such depth to this album. The songs are not fierce enough to attack you outright, but instead are peeling talons that strike away at you in subtle ways.
Transfiguration – Ok so I just spoke on how the even and metered vocals on the cadence on this album was the rope that tethered this albums to a single concept defined this album, but this opening track flips that on it’s head. It’s a brighter, cleaner, prettier vocal concept. “Because its over now, everyone has left, got here just in time to see the party end” This is a bass driven city hope song that sets the story of the record.
5’C – Harpsichord, who uses harpsichord in the modern age to break a melody line. Here the vocals hit that familiar flood of melodic dark attack that ties this album together. That tinkling keyboard line creates such a contrast that drives your mind to a sped up motion of isolation and escapism.
Mire and Sea – Again the script is flipped into a lilting ballad at home with New Order technique but with a Peter Murphy artistic croon in the vocals. You have heard all these ideas before but not at the same time. That striking sense of what is familiar with what you haven’t heard is a beautiful step forward.
Overall this album is full of substance and retrospective depth. It is a wonderful blend of familiar themes and dangerous synthesis to create an unnerving sense of sinister discomfort and welcoming nostalgia. It was an easy first listen and a challenging deep dive. Scrape the surface, unlock the mystery. Find what you can in this multifaceted experience.
An interview with Rachel Pool and Jim Walker of Push Button Press.
Rachel Pool: What can you say about the goth scene in Florida? And why do you think the state has become a hub for modern goth culture?
Jim Walker: Florida had a rich dark music scene long before my time. I think the reason is most likely the success of the clubs and the size of the scene. The list of clubs that supported dark music in Tampa stretches at least 30+ years. I think “The Castle” in Tampa is the longest running “goth” night in the world. I can’t think of a time when there was not at least one club where you could hear great music, and for most this history there were multiple clubs. The Florida scene has always been great.
Big shout outs for ICY MEN and S Y Z Y G Y X for the great work they did on “Spectacle 1”. I am looking forward to working with the new crop of Cold Transmission bands that will be releasing material very soon. Some of my favorite bands now are Anitpole, ACTORS, and Holygram. I have to admit though, I don’t listen to as much music as I should. Whenever I begin hearing good songs it makes me want to create not listen.
How do you feel about remixes? Are they necessary to band networking? Is it comfortable to have other bands interpret your music, and how do you deal with what you may feel is an inaccurate rendition of your song, or indeed one which may have captured the spirit/leitmotif better?
I love listening to other people’s interpretations of what I have worked on. I did not always feel that way, but over time I realized that if the song is great than any remix will be great as well. So, I trust that whatever happens will be awesome. Everything begins and ends with the song and the emotion that is being conveyed. However, collaboration with other acts is even more fun I think. I have a great idea for S Y Z Y G Y X versus Push/Button/Press song, but that is a secret.
If you could have any band/musician remix one of your songs, who would you choose?
Working with Brendan Perry would be a dream come true.
You’ve recently signed with Cold Transmission, what influenced you to choose a European label over one closer to home? Can you speak of any striking differences between the scene overseas and in the States?
To be brutally, none of the labels I have worked with before were as committed, professional, or honest as Cold Transmission. I actually see many more similarities than differences in the scene globally, especially in the last couple of years. Artists and fans seem much more open and receptive. Darker music seems to be becoming less compartmental and factional, plus the quality seems to have risen dramatically.
How have your expectations of PBP changed since starting the band? How does your musical endgame differ, if at all?
P/B/P started off as a primarily a live act around 2009-2013. However, it was hard back then to find an audience for a Post-Punk band that blended electric guitars and synthesizers. This seems to have changed drastically now. I was actually not prepared for what is happening. It is a great problem to have though.
How did you find music? Did you grow up with musicians, or did a certain album or artist inspire you to create music yourself?
I played drums in middle school band and moved to guitar in high school. I was lucky to have friends with excellent taste in music. One day I was given a cassette that said on one side “WARNING: DO NOT LISTEN”, and on the other side it said “JOY DIVISION”. I was only told that the lead singer had hung himself and died for his art. At that time there was no internet to find out more. There very few books on Joy Division. There was nothing outside the rare article in obscure music magazines. But, I was hooked on their sound from the first time I heard “Disorder”. What Joy Division did was allow me to create my own ideas of what the music meant, and invent my own understanding of one man’s existential crisis. As a teenager it left a deep impression and helped me through rough times. What saddens me is that experiences like mine may be a casualty of our information age. Is that sort of mystery lost forever?
Do you write songs from mostly personal experience, or are the lyrics and melody a playground to explore fantasy and incorporate fiction?
I normally have no idea what a song is about until I have finished it. I usually writing double meanings to challenge the listener to interpret it for themselves. However, I have started writing with more narrative/story telling. My secret to good lyrics is to avoid common clichés whenever possible. People who enjoy darker music are very intelligent people and deserve intelligent and well thought out lyrics. With so many amazing wordsmiths that have come before such as Ian Curtis, Peter Murphy, Nick Cave, Brendan Perry, Morrissey, Rozz Williams, and Andrew Eldritch – we mere mortals have a heavy load to bear. I take lyrics very seriously.
Now we gotta get dark: If the Devil offered you a crossroads deal, what would you sell your soul for?
That deal was done years ago. I am still waiting for Old Scratch to keep up his end of the bargain.
Review by: Ken Magerman
Interview by: Rachel Pool
Band: Push Button Press
Album: Spectacle 1
Label: Cold Transmission
All tracks written, recorded and produced by Jim Walker/Push Button Press.