If you look at any item on the Bandcamp page for James Gage’s Passion Pusher project, you’ll find an option to purchase his complete back catalogue. For many artists, the £60+ price tag would represent fair value for money. With Gage, it’s an absolute steal. For, next to the offer, you’ll notice an innocuous button reading ‘225 releases’, clicking on which prompts Bandcamp to roll out a full cover art gallery.
Displaying five albums, EPs or singles at a time – with cover stars ranging from John Waters and Gillian Anderson to Stalin in a mortarboard – it will take fourteen seconds before it finally grinds to a halt. Sitting alongside these, the high-res cover of Aquarium alone seems to belie the fact that it is an album apart, produced by an established label for issue in a physical medium.
Given Passion Pusher’s (mildly alarming) level of productivity, to review any single release feels moderately useless, like covering one disc of a box set. More sensible to review a year’s worth, or at least a dozen at a time. And yet, here I am, writing about their new record – which is, in fact, their sixth-newest, as they’ve managed to sneak out another five in the time I’ve been working on this review (which says as much about my own productivity as it does about Gage’s). That’s 230 on Bandcamp, for those of you still counting – all of it uploaded within the past five years.
Song, By Toad’s description of Passion Pusher as ‘sludge pop’ seems to fit Aquarium well; oftentimes it’s something like Camper Van Beethoven’s Tusk cover album, only without the need for the million-dollar middleman. There’s a definite consistency in its catchy chord progressions, playing around the edges of precise metre, enveloped in a haze of tinny lead guitar and ramshackle rhythm section, rounded out by buried-in-midrange lyrics and occasional ethereal backing vocals from drummer Ailie Ormston.
It’s all pretty good stuff – practice makes perfect – and it’s the sort of music that rewards you the more you listen to it. But, at the same time, Passion Pusher’s precocious prolificity makes it plain that any given release by them isn’t intended as a summation of recent practice, but rather as just another equal instalment in the overall oeuvre. In large part written and recorded in the space of a week, Aquarium isn’t designed to be lingered over much longer than that. But that’s not to say it’s disposable; it’s just not intended to stand still. To really listen to Passion Pusher, what you have to do is keep up.
Aquarium was released on 15th June 2017 by Song, by Toad Records.