Review Summary: Lift to Experience’s masterpiece.
The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads
is Lift to Experience’s debut album. A double sided concept disc, it speaks of an eschatological Armageddon centered around Texas. Masked beneath album art reminiscent of laughable No Limits graphics with a Western vibe thrown in, The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads
explodes out of the case, filled with passion and flair. Displayed on the case are the words “Ladies and gentlemen we are playing with one guitar”, a deliberate nod to Spiritualized, and an ambitious statement for a group to make on their debut. Then it is also split into two discs, an odd play, one that usually harms an album’s accessibility. Disc 1 is the Texas disc, and Disc 2 is the Jerusalem disc. Box and casing noted, this album oozes large amounts of pretension and immaturity, and you may be ready to return it to the record store shelf. Yet there’s another side of the album not yet mentioned.
The music is outstanding. There is such a broad range of sound on the album; it is both underwhelming and overwhelming at the same time. Some tracks have a measured, solemn feel, while others blaze with scorching brilliance. There are moments of shoe-gaze reminiscent of giants My Bloody Valentine and pioneers the Cocteau Twins; the album is actually produced by former Cocteau Twins Simon Raymonde and Robie Guthrie. Other times the music ebbs, and singer Josh Pearson sings as Jeff Buckley, accompanying swaying bluesy music, voice filled with passion.
Beside the music, the lyrics are some of the most interesting and simultaneously absurd ones I’ve ever heard. On “These Are The Days” Pearson satirizes So all you haircut bands, doing headstands / thinking you'll turn the world upside down / Put your guitars up over your shoulders / A new sort of experience is taking over / cause we're simply the / best band in the whole damn land / and 'Texas Is The Reason'
, possibly mocking the punk/hardcore movement. On “Waiting to Hit” Pearson states, I'm just a stupid ranch hand / in a Texas rock band / trying to understand / God's master plan / When the Lord said son / tell the word before it explodes / the glory of the Texas-Jerusalem crossroads. / I said Lord / I'll make you a deal, I will /if you give me a smash hit / so I can build a city on a hill /And he said 'Son, I will if you will / I said my sweet Lord, it's a deal
drolly summarizing the bands vision as a group.
The first track “Just As Was Told” introduces their concept, telling us Don’t you know / the USA’s the center of Jerusalem
. Pearson has stated simply that the record is “A concept album about the end of the world where Texas is the Promised Land.” Musically it sounds less like the trio that it is and more like an orchestra, with Pearson’s calm vocals surrounded by a wealth of guitar noise layered above a strong bass foundation. On “Just As Was Told” there is a heavy shoe-gaze influence as previously mentioned, calling to mind Ride and other similar bands; there are also flashes of post-rock crescendos and melodic bliss amidst the prevailing noise. The track segues softly into “Down Came the Angels”, a bare, austere track. Pearson’s vocals are the focus, compared to the thick orchestration on “Just As Was Told”. The rest of the album utilizes those contrasting elements well, establishing an extensive range that gives the album a unique sense of solidarity.
The album flames to life again on the next track, with a powerful chorus. Lift to Experience manage to display emotion and feeling in a multitude of ways on The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads
. The dynamic soaring crescendos have their obvious poignancy, but tracks like “With Crippled Wings” manage to incorporate that same power, feeling just as emotive in their own tender ways. Like the divergent musical tones, Pearson’s voice changes constantly, alternating between ascending vocal melodies and straight spoken words in a plain fashion, sometimes calling to mind tone similar to Jeff Magnum or even Beck. Pearson’s vocals definitely add to the eclectic nature of the record.
“Waiting To Hit” is one of the more explosive tracks. Josh Browning’s busy bass litters the foundation of the song, and Andy Young’s drums and Pearson’s guitar dutifully rocket off in all their shimmering glory. “The Ground So Soft” is simply massive, slowly building energy before erupting in colossal fashion, and then suddenly diminishing into a liturgical hymn-like passage. “These Are The Days” is the single off the album. It is propelled by its bouncy energy leading to an impacting chorus. Pearson alternates between talking and singing, and the music oscillates between busy and straightforward moments. “These Are The Days” inspires dancing and genuine rocking in a quality manner.
The album’s biggest strength is in its overwhelming sense of unity, and consequent expansive range. It’s a double disc release, yet the tracks are strongly bound together; when the track titles are grouped together they form sentences: “Just as was told/down came the angels/falling from cloud 9/with crippled wings/waiting to hit/the ground so soft,” and “These are the days/when we shall touch/down with the prophets/to guard and guide you/into the storm.” Also notable is the seamless passage of tracks, aside from the split form of the two discs. It aids in the cohesive feeling the album emanates.
Hailing from the Lone Star state of Texas, and specifically from the town of Denton, Lift to Experience led a short-lived career. This, their debut, was their sole release aside from a short EP, These Are The Days
. The eccentric scope of the record, and the pretentiously ambitious claims and art on the record really fail to make much sense. Yet, everything is forgotten under influence of the music, which quells all of the aforementioned issues in a beautiful way. Immature lyrics? Shoddy concept? Christian music? Nope, this is just a true classic from a fledgling group. Standing as the groups’ only record and possessing the scope and ardor that it does, it’s almost impossible not to appreciate it on some level. It’s a shame the band fell apart so soon after forming. Only lead vocalist Josh Pearson continues to be a relevant artist today, performing recently at an ATP curated festival.