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Oct 02

GRACEFUL AS A SWAN, FEROCIOUS!

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Lift To Experience – The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads

I don’t want to begin with a trope and have to carry through its execution. I don’t want an introduction giving me some context to work around; to seep into and out of. Now I am half way to the thing I don’t want; so, start: I found it difficult to write this. I am finding it difficult to write this album into a corner. My favourite album of last year, there should be lots of words spilling. ‘Genuflect’, ‘altar’, ‘religion’, ‘sacrosanct’ – I don’t know where to take them, I don’t know where they are stored by this album, though I know they are there. The sick taste of iron on a wet tongue, clawing at its palate to scrape the metal resin off, trying to locate pH 7, everything in its right place. These words are in here – but I don’t know where, and I don’t know what they mean. I’m working this out in front of you. These are my thoughts. As I think them.

I can allow them this album’s sound. I’m not sure it will suffice.

Pure Sound Description. With Crippled Wings. The trains of iridescent fluo-flare notes pirouette, rumbling drums punch out delineating the battlefield, subsiding every so often. The music drops to an assassin’s quiet, Pearson’s hand scuffling lightly again the bridge of his Jaguar, his drawl escalates – not yet, too much. His voice hushed starts talking gently over the music, it escalates. Atop the crescendo, the rhythm kicks again and the guitars begin to reel and cascade once more. It peters out into chirruping timpany backing a symmetrically plucked guitar-sound, like heat-thinned mercury plink plonking onto an ice cube, every so often missing, causing a dull palm-muted thud.

Description by Reference. The Ground So Soft. It opens with a guitar shimmer like one vein of My Bloody Valentine’s Only Shallow spun out of the weave and de-amplified. The drums razed from the ground, lift, like swooshing shingle. Josh is there, talking in Jeff Buckley’s suit, breaking song for speech – he doesn’t like the suit’s hang, so it is discarded and he rests into Barbershop Quartet harmonies, the music has dropped, Josh on Josh, one vocal just off the other. Kick. Kick now. No. It won’t. The vocal subsides. And the track pulsates out of itself into waves, like Plastikman, sculpting rhythm in sound.

It is still not enough. This doesn’t convey what this album means. I could betray the general feeling. Will this render questions answered?

If someone asked me what is the general feel of this album:

Restlessness/Inventiveness. Thought’s trains, a litany of tracks firing off in a circle of directions: a man sits, a bench, into his pocket and one quick movement a knife is ground atween his wrist and the bench-arm. A flutter of blood. His hand falls to the ground after a coy attempt at balancing. His remaining hand reaches inside his shorn arm, nips the flapping ulna and radial arteries, a snip and tuck. An attempt at unleashing the un-understood but stopping before it goes too far, not allowing the tracks to run into the run-out groove. Thought’s trains tucked away and partially closed, opened and (in worry?) curtailed; the released ideas and feelings, the matter, to follow, to close up, to yield, to lie down. If I wasn’t here, would this be happening? Pearson is on park benches all over this album. Like an irritable, Irn-Bru fuelled child, Pearson tries out all his toys, picking one up and playing with it for a small while only to jump to another after some time. But unlike a child, LtE aren’t boring themselves with the ideas but letting them rest before sunset, before the fun evaporates, the effect bleeds from them leaving them drab and over-exposed. Pearson is the child with perspective. The corollary of this is that: why put them down to preserve effect? So that they may be used elsewhere.

Recurrence/Coherence. My three favourite albums of the past two years include recurring leitmotifs. The Streets’ Original Pirate Material, Gillian Welch’s Time (The Revelator) and Lift to Experience’s debut. And all use them in a similar way. All use set phrases and images, bring them back into the song, to tether this song to an already constructed mental post, to associate songs. The effect is one of album coherency and emphasis. Why is this important here? Because this is a story, of three Texas boys. The story could not be convincingly told if there wasn’t a convincing constructed context where there are constants, ephemera, characters, events, themes, boundaries, and plot. The album is riddled with signposts and memory triggers, creating the illusion of a world. A place where LtE’s improbable fictions can be played out, accepted by the listener. He fools us into believing. Boxes us in and then shows us his hidden whispers, secret roars. What is ‘sexuality’ when all you’ve ever known are men? To put it crudely and carelessly.

Fiction. I say this is fiction and what effect is there? How does it change the reading? This is a poem: the reader looks harder, starts checking steps that she would’ve followed through on long ago in other arenas; peers at that word from below its green Exit sign, from its tradesman’s entrance, from just off the track, from the middle of the track. This is a record review: I don’t write about the music then people look for the music in the words. It’s a device, a film put over what we are about to reveal which affects the way in which it is looked at. And LtE know this. Play with this. Reference themselves as “three Texas boys”, “just a dumb ranch hand”, “Lord, I’ll make you a deal: I will if you give me a smash hit”, pulling themselves into the drama, knowing they have their trapdoor. “Hi, I’m Eminem.” The paint line in the sand is murky: get me a stick, I’m gonna muddy it.

But I’ve not explained the difficulty – why it is hard to write this album into a corner.

Draw a cube. Drawn. This cube is full. Rock and Roll history, past, present. Filled out and defined, what began as a line spurted tangents in various directions resulting in a Time Cube rather than Line. The sides of this cube are soft and give if extrapolation is required. It was easier to write about the music at the centre of this cube. Looking back wasn’t far back and there was so much space in front of you. But now? Where now? Is there possible progression in front of you? I think it is easier to write about dance, in this sense, since (as far as I can see from my reading) it fits into a scheme, a new estate, a constantly genremorphing map. Whereas, with rock in its elderlyness, its scheme has been fully fleshed and, even, reiterated; now, this iteration is just a separate entity – not part of a grand narrative that can be picked up and chain written. Obviously this isn’t wholly true. As all rock albums are part of a story, but now its hard to see where they fit, to write them in, it is too hard to write LtE into this cube. Here’s Tim Finney: “it begs the question, what exactly is micro-house?” Try asking such a question for LtE’s rock. No point, is it answered?

What do they mean to me though? Forget the sluggish tug of the grand narrative.

They mean an end to the dull connivance of country, rock and punk. A play on texture and structure. A play on the meanings of words and the uses of phrases, the meaning of their uses. They mean everything above, inasmuch as an entity can ‘mean’ anything in this sense. They mean there is now a MBV album with nice melodies. I sometimes lie on my bed’s bottom, the sun’s drawn out, and I have to lie opposite to the way I usually do. The earphones don’t reach and even when I manipulate the hi-fi into a manageable position I sleep sideways: earphone, pillow, ear, crush. Even so. I am willing to sleep into this music, around this music, with this music around me, swilling about in the gap between the ear pieces and my ears. This is music to dress wounds, salve hurts, and rock boats. Like Is A Woman this is ghost music. Faint tinctures of all before them drift in and around. One last comment on the album and then

I’ll end on a thought: there are trains all over this album – make of this what you can from what I have said above. I found it hard to write this.

written by David Howie, October 2002

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