This one’s an absolute bonzer. I’m so happy good music still gets made. With a seemingly absolute bottomless feast of EPs and various other odds and ends on his bandcamp, I assumed Passion Pusher, aka Edinburgh’s James Gage had several albums under his belt. However, this is the Pusher’s debut album proper, out now on Leith-based Song, by Toad records.
The gobsmackingly affecting kickoff track ‘Life in the Aquarium‘, while keeping with themes of depression and social dysfunction present throughout the album, is something else altogether. Led by a simple, uncomfortably acrid piano line, it uses blunt instruments of broken sung lyrics (“I watch you do as you do/I wish I could do it do…What a simple life!”) to make the sometimes impossible act of just being a person look easy, with all the self loathing that comes with it. It is undoubtedly moving and also the most typically ‘conventional’ song on the album, though anything but conventional in terms of subject matter or delivery.
Single ‘Sauchiehall Street‘, after Glasgow’s very Oxford Street, is a more together seasick garage rock one-and-a-half-or-whatever minuter, detailing the heartbreaking, quite-funny-actually tedium and plan-changing behavioural minutiae of social avoidance and anxiety.
It’s impossible not to compare this guy to Pavement and Guided By Voices, purely by virtue of the fact these songs at once sound like bashed out there and then b-sides, but then also manage to hit melodic indie emotional bullseyes almost every time. And, furthermore, if this was put out today or 20 years ago by Guided by Voices, everyone would be jizzing their pants, quite frankly. It deserves to be loved.
Aside from the almost-title track aforementioned above, the rest of the record is fairly standard, lo-fi, off-key indie rock. But there are prods of real, affecting melody throughout. Sometimes sounding like a kitchen unit full of plates crashing to the ground and in other parts like an intimate pep talk between Gage and his thoughts, these are short, sharp jags of songs.
Elsewhere, there’s the more dialed down Let’s Wrestle/Libertines-like slur of songs like ‘Pizza Club‘ and ‘Good Thoughts‘, Pixies‘ warm waves of iffy, Hawaiian harmonies within ‘My Guy‘. The Oasis-broad beginning in ‘Really Wonderful‘ gives way to some more some slightly more drunk Lemonheads-y conventional rock. ‘I Respect You, You Respect Me‘ is another highlight; indecipherable verses over a sunny guitar give way to the pure summer melancholy chorus which reminded me of the best of Pavement, untouchable nineties nostalgia but no cheese or regressive shite.
A class act in highly listenable, bedsit stargazing music. Seven thumbs up.
Aquarium is out now on Song, By Toad Records.