Press To MECO – ‘Transmute’

By Aaron Jackson

For Croydon/Crawley-based trio Press To MECO, 2018’s ‘Here’s To The Fatigue’ was a cathartic celebration of the trials and tribulations that come alongside being a working, touring band in a troubled industry. This time around, they’re delving into some of the murkier waters that bands will experience at some point in their career – a lineup change and last-minute Covid-enforced shift from a swanky studio in Texas to a makeshift recording setup in a British hunting lodge were just a couple of the setbacks the band experienced when creating ‘Transmute’. The result? Their most challenging, yet most fulfilling album to date.

Opening with rhythmic percussive clinks, clanks and smacks, ‘Transmute’ is audibly a product of hard graft and industry. This first instrumental track then leads into a hattrick of songs that were all released as singles in the build-up to the album’s release; one run-through of ‘Another Day’, ‘Smouldering Sticks’, and ‘A Test Of Our Resolve’ will give first-time listeners a comprehensive overview of what they can expect from the rest of the record. Across the three songs, Press To MECO showcase three-part harmonies, big choruses, and bigger riffs, all of which are trademarks in their oeuvre.

With ‘Baby Steps’, Press To MECO flex their capabilities when exploring a softer and more reserved side. Admittedly, it’s not a dynamic that lasts for too long, before new bassist Jake Crawford ensures we hear the demonstrable value he has added to this outfit since joining. Aside from his distortion-drenched bass parts providing a rock-solid foundation throughout the record, his vocals add a tenacity to Press To MECO’s music that had perhaps been lacking prior to his arrival.

Overall unrelenting in pace, ‘Sabotage’ boasts an outro dominated by a grandiose surge of brass instruments that delivers a triumphant ending to the most ambitious and expansive song on the record. In contrast, ‘Overdue’ is stripped-back and refreshingly clean. In temporarily giving the distortion a rest, Press To MECO leave room for experimentation and diversification. The first post-chorus hits particularly pleasantly with a saccharine old-timey sounding instrumental break. Even sweeter is the “I’m like a newborn baby staring at the sun” refrain that shows how seemingly effortless it is for Press To MECO to flirt with a variety of musical stylings in such a short space of time.

A soft and acoustic prequel to ‘Gold’ (more on that later), ‘Lead’ directly addresses the process from which this record takes its name. To transmute is to change a material into something different, usually a shift in form to something of higher quality and value. The motif of turning lead into gold embodies the overarching message of hope that songwriter-in-chief and drummer/vocalist Lewis Williams delivers throughout the album.

Feeling like a four-minute homage to debut album ‘Good Intent’, Press To MECO embrace the beauty in striking the balance between dissonance and harmony with ‘Rusty Nails’. The main riff is jagged, angular, and harks back to the math-rock sensibilities (or lack thereof) that so clearly inspire this band’s craft. The instrumentation in the verses plods along and is borderline staccato, but the vocals are fluid and meander in and amongst the stabs that are bedded underneath them with ease. It’s territory that few can navigate comfortably, but Press To MECO sound right at home.

The single that really made people sit up and listen was ‘Gold’. Williams’ and Crawford’s synergistically spite-fuelled vocals drag us through a blistering verse that blooms into a chorus big enough to fill any stadium on this planet. Chaos ensues in the breakdown. The dizzying riff that sees guitarist/vocalist Luke Caley cascading down his fretboard is pure cacophonous brilliance. Crawling to a halt in the song’s dying embers, you’ll need a crowbar to lift your jaw off the floor after this one.

Dropping the album’s ‘Interlude’ directly after that gorgeous racket was a sensible decision – a brief blink of respite before the energy is immediately reinjected with the bouncy ‘Way To Know’. Again, it’s a song lavish with the clean three-part harmonies that are so integral to Press To MECO’s appeal, and vocals occupy the spotlight in the album’s closer ‘Hesitation’. A ballad of sorts, Press to MECO are intent on leaving us with a song that summarises ‘Transmute’ as a whole. Signing off with “it’s time to choose what path we take”, this album highlights the importance of preserving hope in turbulent times – and, aside from sounding incredible, it’s the message behind ‘Transmute’ that makes it so worthy of anyone’s attention.

AARON JACKSON

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