Press On album cover art by Isaac Himmelman
Album Review by Eric Sandberg – Press On by Peter Himmelman
After two major label stints and many releases through various indie distributors on his own Frinny Records imprint, Press On is Peter Himmelman's third straight album made under the aegis of his own fans via Kickstarter. Over this period his supporters have been rewarded with early access to three of his finest albums to date, each one better than the last.
These releases are likely break-even affairs for Himmelman, if not losses considering how the most carefully planned project budgets can go awry. Himmelman's primary means of support is his company Big Muse, a consulting firm that assists corporations and businesses to grow by helping personnel remove mental barriers and unlock their creativity. Himmelman published his self-help process in book form Let Me Out: Unlock Your Creative Mind and Bring Your Ideas To Life in 2016.
So why does Peter Himmelman still regularly go through the tremendous bother to seek funding, assemble musicians, rent expensive studio time, pay a producer, engineer and a mastering technician, etc? To paraphrase one of his best songs 'the songs keep ticking out and the songs must keep him sane.'
Himmelman is a prolific songwriter who has released fourteen solo rock albums, five albums of music for hip children and ten collections of songs that didn't quite make the cut in the Himmevaults series. These songs ultimately serve as his best and only public outlet for all his rage, sadness, love and hope for humanity as it faces whatever is going on in the world when these songs come to him.
Himmelman is one America's greatest and most under-appreciated lyric songwriters. Why isn't he more famous? It's most likely because he has stayed steadfastly true to himself and never succumbed to the pressures of major label marketing. He didn't change his last name to Byron or Keats, and he recorded a concept album [the excellent Skin which Sony struggled to promote] just as he was poised to break through with major label support.
Peter Himmelman in studio recording Press On
Himmelman also has the tendency to come off as overly serious, if not pedantic. The first time I heard his music was in the buying office of Show Industries [parent company of the nearly forgotten LA-based record chain Music +]. I went over to the Sony buyer and asked "Who is this guy and what on Earth is he whining about?" But a few weeks later, at party to kick off a joint promotion with Sony, I got to see Himmelman perform live and I immediately understood. In person, Himmelman is as funny and engaging as his songs are serious and profound.
After performing a few songs, Himmelman felt isolated on stage with only his acoustic guitar. He tested the length of his cables and moved to the floor and continued to sing with such unbridled passion that the only barrier between him and his audience was the distance the spittle flew from his mouth as he tore through his repertoire.
It is Peter Himmelman live that has garnered him a small but fiercely loyal audience that is willing to pay in advance in anticipation of new music. Not enough to sustain him and his family, but enough to make it worthwhile to make an album such as Press On.
On social media, Himmelman is circumspect, offering positive philosophical platitudes aimed at promoting spiritual growth. On record, Peter Himmelman is a snarling groove monster, delivering his ever-insightful and poetic takes on the current state of the world.
"This is the sound of guns and silence
After a year of blood and violence
These are the men grey with ash
Rolling their barrels of useless cash
The clocks have frozen on a night so cold
The sun has dropped the jokes growing old
And wouldn’t you know the joke’s on us my friends
The dam has burst the bubble’s popped
We dove headfirst, we belly flopped
Inhaling whatever providence sends
This is how it ends
This is how it ends,"
Himmelman sings to an ironically hopeful ascending piano line draped over a pulsating rhythm which recalls Jackson Browne's "Doctor My Eyes." "This Is How It Ends" is followed by "The Wail of the Trumpets, The Clatter of the Hoof Beats" with a finger picked treble-y guitar riff so wicked that Himmelman lets it go on for two extra bars before singing,
"Plugged in full time, turned on high crime
Can’t take your eyes off your tiny little screen
Nothing’s worth a damn if it ain’t the color green
Lift off back down what’s your background
Safe inside your home while it storms and sleets
People walkin ‘round with crosses and sheets
Listen so close for the wail of trumpets and the clatter of the hoof beats"
The album's thirteen tracks each instantly grab you with their urgency and poignancy, all driven by a crisp acoustic guitar groove and adorned with just the right amount of drums, piano, organ and electric guitar. The album closer "This Is My Offering" brings it all back home with a pledge,
"This is my offering, it don’t dance or sing —it ain’t no diamond ring
You can’t buy it at the five and dime, it’s beyond logic, money or time
It’s not a place or thing —this is my offering
This is my sacred vow, it ain’t no horse or plow, it ain’t no milkin cow
It won’t protect you from the drivin rain, it won’t relieve your muscle pain
It’s in the past, it’s here right now —this is my sacred vow."
Press On is a groove, a thrill ride, a signal of hope in desperate times, and a promise to continue. More people need to hear it.
Eric Sandberg: My true opinion on everything is that it's splunge.