LIFT TO EXPERIENCE ‘The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads’ (Mute)

Unbelievably I missed this epic beaut the first time round. I knew the band name but always got them confused with Explosions In The Sky. It was only when I belonged to the Rough Trade Album of the Month club and received Josh T Pearson’s hushed gem of an album “Last Of The Country Gentleman” that I got fully immersed into Josh’s unrivalled hallowed world. And the mysticism of that slow burner was enhanced when it coincided with a fever that kept me in my stinking pit for a week and Josh’s barely there whisper on the likes of “Thou Art Loosed” at once made me strain but then gave me precious peace away from the bed sweats.

Josh’s band Lift To Experience were three, as Trump might now have them, bad hombres from Texas. Their brand of evangelical apocalyptic rock was best realised as legend has it in the concept album ‘The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads’ and fifteen plus years on it’s getting a super-douper deluxe re-release and hopefully the attention and exposure it fully deserves as part of the post-millennial rock cannon.

Originally released in 2001, it was a vision of the end of the world, when |Winston Churchills shot their Winstons into the air” and smoked Winstons too, an NRA stoked Dubya Bush era. The world seemed at the cusp of all sorts of craziness then, but now it’s been exacerbated into an awful can’t look away but can’t stop rubber-necking real-life reality car crash.

A lot changed in 2001, it could be traced as the year zero for the maelstrom of division and the abyss we face right now. Back then the hushed tones of spoken word poetry slash polemic at the start of album opener “As Was Told”, as Slint-esque as it was, seemed like imaginative prophecy in the way that could help us cope with unpredictability – a satire like Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove strapped to that nuke.

Now it just seems like a narrator counting us down to armageddon. But that’s not to say this is an album of gloom. It has a strange rousing nature, encouraging us to embrace the inevitability – sure there may be a war to end all wars, as it says in “To Guard And To Guide You” but at least we know now (and didn’t then) that it may not rain down from the skies but instead emit as binary codes across the cyber-verse. And given that Texas includes dotcom demi-gods in Austin as much as oil hungry JR’s from Dallas, the ‘Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads’ holds true as a parable for a remixed 2017 (as the album has been for its repackaging).

The one anachronism, a hang-over from the original CD release methinks, is the hidden track, some ten odd minutes after the silence of “Into The Storm”, comes a jarring reverb klang, kind of an “Endless Nameless” for snake preachers. As it comes so long after the end of the chaos, it could metaphorical for the start of a new post-apocalyptic fight, heading off down one branch of the cross-roads, the sign mangled, and the future uncertain. Like the moment at the end of Jim Jarmusch’s “Down By Law”, long long after they’ve all screamed for ice cream.

On a pure visceral rock level, my absolute personal favourite is the song “These Are The Days”. It’s a real belter, cyclical and angular and best summed up by the kissy smack of the lips and sharp intake of breath at 00:41 – a moment that is beautiful, rude, funny and fragile all at the same time – the absolute eye of a storm, a distillation of human emotion amongst the insanity that envelops the rest of the journey.

Lift To Experience’s recent journey out of the wilderness brought them back into a room together when they played at Meltdown on the unexpected request of curator Guy Garvey (who knew Elbow loved Lift To Experience!). Given the other unexpected fact I recently learned that my favourite and VS supporter John Peel had Lift To Experience in for three sessions in five months (count ’em – 3 in 5! and all on this reissue) and that the band were included in the 125 Best Peel Sessions of all time, means that hopefully their voyage is not completely over, because there’s not enough group or sound quite like them.

Rating: Must Be Experienced First Hand

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see below “These Are The Days” video, remixed and resynched for 2017