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Friday, March 9, 2007

Welcome to Texas

A man does not live by books alone. If you can stand to be briefly sidetracked, then read on; if not, visit our dear Litlove who plumbs the intellectual depths of Jean Baudrillard. We can't even try to keep up with her there, so if that's all above your head too, stay here where we will provide the fluff.

Climb aboard the soul train as it takes us on a trip to Scotland where we will visit Texas. What's an American state doing in a European country? Well, it's actually a band, and if you are from Texas (or any other American state) there is a good chance you have never heard of them.

We were lucky enough to be exposed to one of the greatest radio experiences. Before the internet offered radio on demand. Before the conglomeration of stations. Someday we will tell you a little more about this amazing independent station. For now all you need to know is that they played the likes of Texas. We enjoyed what we heard and bought the debut album. It was good, a little bluesy, and featured a pretty woman with a nice voice. We bought the second album. Before one of their concerts in support of this, they made an unscheduled appearance at a local record store. We made an unscheduled appearance there as well. There were only maybe ten people to hear two of the band members perform a couple songs acoustically. We don't recall much more than enjoying it. (We are not an autograph hound, but it would be nice today to have such a souvenir.) We bought the third album, another strong effort. We borrowed the next album, and returned it disappointed. The songs didn't catch, and the music seemed to have moved more toward the pop category than the alternative. We never heard from them again.

Enter the internet. Now, lest we stray too far from books, we can make this connection: someone posted a message in a bookstore group about some book-related clip on something called YouTube. This was new to us, living in the secluded isolation of Mad About Books International Headquarters. We clicked over to check it out, and for whatever reason, the clip didn't work for us. We searched for other clips that had to do with books. After a few minutes we began to search for music that interests us, but doesn't receive a lot of publicity: Aimee Mann, Maria McKee and Lone Justice, Danielle Brisebois, Jonatha Brooke, Texas. Lo and behold there is a plethora of video clips and concert footage, good, bad, legal and otherwise. We already knew how good these artists were; what we didn't know was what wonderful performers Texas are.

In the record store, Sharleen Spiteri (the lead singer) and the guitarist (one or other of the McSomethings) sat on stools. In videos they usually lip-synched in front of microphones, or maybe walked along a busy street, or watched water swirl around in a toilet--whatever bands do in videos. The concert footage available on YouTube opened up a whole nother country of Texas. Ms. Spiteri was a little ball of atomic energy. Two more clicks took me to eBay to find an inexpensive concert video: Paris.

First of all, Texas is profoundly popular overseas, something which has not translated to mainstream America. Okay, so they can be our little secret. Many of the songs from this concert were new to us, yet they have immediate accessibility, nice hooks, and after the first listen it seems like we had been familiar with them for years--yet they are fresh. What sounded like pop so many years ago now sounds adult, more complex and layered. Days later some of them are still playing of their own accord in our head. To offer another connection to books, for you hardcore bibliomaniacs, some books don't mean anything on the first read. We had to struggle through Wuthering Heights about four times before it all finally clicked, made sense, at which point we were left in awe. Different times in life, different states of mind can greatly influence our perception of art. Sometimes, Stefanie, one just has to keep at The Great Gatsby until the rewards abound.

In this concert, Texas performs solidly, tight with nothing flamboyant. The songs included come with more hooks than we have heard from anyone since Ms. Mann. The DVD also comes with a bonus live performance, and the videos from most of the songs. A quality production of an engaging concert, we urge music lovers to seek this out now.

But wait!

Ms. Spiteri co-writes most of the band's material. She was also a co-founder of the band, and though others have come and gone, she and her two mates maintain the original core. In this concert, and in most of the other performance clips we saw on YouTube, Ms. Spiteri is clearly the heart and soul of the group, if not the leader. She drives this concert. She pushes a somewhat passive French audience, and can't be kept down. She has a presence on stage that can't be denied, something that captivates even her bandmates. (For just a taste of her appeal, check the video for the single When We Are Together.) Now anyone can run around stage and lead the audience in handclaps above their head (witness Grandpa Jagger), but Ms. Spiteri adds talent to the mix. She plays guitar (with a wrist broken in fisticuffs with a wall), she plays piano, (she can play tamborine,) and she has a powerful voice. Now we have no technical understanding of music, so we can only guess at how to describe this: she has great range, usually sings in a low key, but moves up a few octaves without a hitch, and no matter where her notes fall or how long they last, her voice never cracks. She sounds better recorded live than on some of their releases, on which her voice is double-tracked. Her voice isn't caressingly ethereal like Heather Nova's, but smooth and silky, like a heavy licquor. Interesting to note that when she sings one can detect almost none of the Scottish accent that is so pronounced when she speaks. And did I mention she's a great performer?

Wikipedia has an abundance of information about the band. Check them out. If you are a fan of good music, you won't be disappointed.

1 comment:

  1. You know, given the choice, I would much rather listen to a Texas album than read a Baudrillard book! I adore Sharleen Spiteri's voice.