I must admit, when I first saw the adorable, but impossibly young, faces of the band Push Play staring back at me from their debut album Deserted. I felt extraordinarily old as when I was in my late twenties and was too old for *NSync or The Backstreet Boys.
Although I must tragically admit to a childhood appreciation for The New Kids on the Block, I always plead a youthful version of the fifth in that it was one of the many sins of the late 80s and early 90s– right up there with the Hypercolor line of t-shirts that let your sweat act like a mood ring, men who wore Zubaz, and one foot high hair-sprayed bangs. Now just a few years away from turning thirty, did I really want to check out another boy band? I wasn’t sure.
Yet, being game for anything, which as a film critic is especially important when we’re faced with stuff like Mamma Mia!—I let the music do my thinking for me. And it turns out that, while they’re often lumped together with the Jonas Brothers (which has annoyingly prompted many to start mispronouncing my last name) and also Miley Cyrus, whose manager they just signed with, Push Play is like a youthful but far more fashionable version of Blink 182, The Killers, and Franz Ferdinand. While they began locally as the Long Island, New York version of the fab-four, as reported by Newsday, the previously unsigned band skyrocketed to levels of unprecedented fame thanks to a loyal fan-base of young screaming and swooning girls who saw them (following a debut at the basement of Manhattan’s Knitting Factory) in their breakthrough performance last autumn opening for Disney Records’ all-girl band Everlife. And as lead vocalist CJ Baran said, “all the fans wanted to meet us after our set. Nobody was going in to watch them play.”
Frequently bombarded with fan mail and more than a million hits on their ever-popular MySpace page, CJ’s mother Sue Baran who “had been responsible for at least some of the promotion,” took charge as “the momager.” Launching the charitable “Push Play for a Purpose,” Sue Baran and the talented foursome raised money for worthy causes at concerts and even give a portion of the proceeds from Deserted to the Education and Assistance Corp. (EAC), which as the CD describes is “a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting children and seniors.”
In addition to the eleven catchy tracks on the roughly forty minute album, as an Enhanced CD Deserted also features the music video for their song “There She Goes Again.” Although the disc kicks off with the slightly overproduced sounding “Starlight Addiction,” the track actually improves on additional listens, when you can pinpoint some of the band’s unabashedly emo-rock influences. The follow up track “Plastique” is addictive right from the start. Offering much more sing-along potential as the phenomenal hook is toyed with by Baran, he punches the last word of each line as though his voice were a drum until quickly it builds with guitars as the rest of the band including Steve Scarloa on guitar, Nick DeTurris on bass and Derek Ries on drums join in.
With Baran and DeTurris having played together since middle school with their first band Kaution, the chemistry between the four is wonderful and can really be heard with each successive track. In fact, as The New York Times writer Tammy La Gorce amusingly pointed out, “it’s not every day you hear a bunch of teenage boys referring to each other as B.F.F.’s.” And speaking of the tween popular phrase that’s been given a new lifeblood from the increasing popularity of CW’s Gossip Girl, Push Play’s third track “Situation” sounds like it wouldn’t be out of place on the hip show with its simple “sha na na na” chorus that grabs you and doesn’t let go.
While the album contains ballads and “Dreamers” is especially pretty, ultimately it sounds a bit too much like a prom song to remain memorable, along with “Here Without You,” that’s nonetheless bolstered by a terrific use of a keyboard. The change of pace from fast to slow couldn’t be more evident and it’s in the upbeat terrain where the band really finds their footing, especially in the jump-up-and-down anthem “Do It Deadly,” the slightly predictable Boy Band-ish “Far From Beautiful (FFB)” that nevertheless works and the television theme song ready track “The Life.”
Overall, a sunny, fun disc that’s as adorable as its fashion obsessed band who worship Dolce and Gabbana and sometimes design their own suits. Based on their unceasing popularity in cyberspace, it seems fair to say that fans won’t leave Push Play deserted.
Deserted Track List
1) Starlight Addiction
5) Do It Deadly
6) Far From Beautiful (FFB)
7) The Life
8) Stop Staring
9) Here Without You
10) Time To Shine
11) There She Goes AgainPowered by Sidelines