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TRACK LIST: 1. Disguise 3:43 2. New Thoughts 3:19 3. Too Late 2:59 4. Entitled 6:12 5. The Butterfly Net 9:05 6. My Parting Shot 5:06 7. I Won't Belong 4:01 8. Try it Out for Size 3:22 9. Bottom Feeder 4:05 10. Heavy Hand 4:19 11. Sticking to Your Story 3:18 12. It Skips a Generation 3:02 13. Looking All Night 2:46 LINEUP: Steve Herrig – keyboards; guitar; vocals Rich Gaglia – guitars; keyboards; percussion; vocals Anton Johnson – guitars; percussion; vocals John DiGiulio – drums, percussion John Hartley – bass Dave Clark – vocals With: Alicia Skrabut – strings (5, 7, 12) Bernadette McCallion – vocals (5)
Prolusion. “The Butterfly Net” is the fourth album released by New York-based PUSHING RED BUTTONS, a somewhat mysterious outfit that has gained some popularity in the independent music press. The band counts the likes of The Beatles, Todd Rundgren, XTC, Queen and Yes among their main sources of inspiration, therefore placing themselves at the more ‘crossover’ end of the prog spectrum. However, in the words of mainman Steve Herrig who formed the band back in 2001, in Pushing Red Buttons are not really a band, but rather a bunch of touring and studio musicians who are too busy to play live together.
Analysis. As can be expected from the above overview, “The Butterfly Net” is a strongly vocals-oriented album, though backed by solid, at times even lush instrumentation, with a lot of emphasis put on guitars. However, there is not much here that can be associated with the more ‘classic’ forms of prog. For one thing, most songs (with the sole notable exception of the title track) are around, or even below, the 4-minute mark and do not significantly deviate from the traditional verse-chorus-verse form. To be perfectly honest, the first impression I got from the album was far from positive and only improved on the third listening. Personally, while I very much prefer a good song-oriented album to a rambling affair made up of hit-and-miss ‘epics’, I also like a band to have some sense of direction and not throw too many different ingredients into the pot, without knowing if the tastes will blend successfully. “The Butterfly Net” comes across as a mainly pop album with some prog aspirations, but without a clear sense of direction unlike, for instance, in the case of ‘crossover’ acts such as Supertramp or ELO. Moreover, while more than competent on the instrumental side of things, Pushing Red Buttons are not equally proficient as regards lead vocals – an essential component of this kind of prog – the main culprit being guitarist/producer Rich Gaglia, whose vocal range is rather limited. On the other hand, the omnipresent vocal harmonies are very often successful and contribute to the overall upbeat feel of the album. Out of the 13 songs that comprise “The Butterfly Net”, more than half have a very conventional structure, and I would not hesitate to say that they sound very similar to one another. This factor can bring about a sort of tiredness in the listener and lead him to overlook the more interesting features of the album, such as some tasteful guitar-piano interplay and generally excellent guitar work. The Yes influence comes across rather clearly in tracks like Too Late (especially as regards the use of more complex vocal harmonies), the album closer Looking All Night (one of the most interesting songs, in spite of its shortness), and obviously the title track – the only full-fledged prog effort of the album, though in my opinion not entirely successful. Another significant influence for the band, The Beatles, make their appearance in the McCartney-flavoured vocals of the low-key, melodic Parting Shot and in the altogether more dynamic Sticking to Your Story, which features some exhilarating piano and guitar licks. To keep up with the band’s eclectic nature, Bottom Feeder is more than vaguely reminiscent of the likes of Deep Purple or Uriah Heep, with hard, fast guitar work and powerhouse drumming, while Heavy Hand would not be out of place as one of Steely Dan’s rockier efforts, complete with scintillating guitar solo. As for the 9-minute-plus title track, its main problem is its ‘everything-but-the-kitchen-sink’ approach, which results in the song sounding like a collection of disjointed snippets of different kinds of music – changing abruptly from a catchy beginning with some fine vocal interplay to a violin solo followed by applause, to a vaguely Beatlesesque melody, and then ending with a decidedly complex, Yes-inspired instrumental section. Interesting without a doubt, but not as fully developed as the seasoned prog listener might wish – reflecting in many ways the nature of the album itself.
Conclusion. Though I would not call “The Butterfly Net” a bad album by any means, its basic ‘neither-fish-nor-fowl’ quality fails to kindle my enthusiasm. With the exception of the title track and a couple of other songs, there is very little here to appeal to fans of old-school prog. However, open-minded listeners, especially those who do not mind healthy doses of catchy choruses and well-executed vocal harmonies, with some hard-edged guitar bite thrown in for good measure, may definitely find this album interesting.
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