Album Reviews

Lift To Experience: The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads (Mute)

lift-to-experience

Lift To Experience
The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads
Mute

Lift To Experience’s sole album, The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads, has taken on a legendary status. It’s easy to understand why; the short-lived band came and went in such a quick fashion that the mythologizing began well before most people knew they were gone. For those who were fortunate to catch them in their brief existence (yours truly is one of them, thankfully) one saw an amazing sight: three hairy, redneck-looking dudes playing extremely heavy rock music, fronted by a tall, enigmatic figure with a piercing, evil glare that could burn your soul with one glance, who in spite of the darkness, angelically sang intense lyrics about God and Texas over a pummeling wall of noise that occasionally flirted with gorgeous, transcendent guitar melodies.  Adding to this was an ever-present vibe that the three guys on stage—frontman and guitarist Josh T. Pearson, guitarist Josh “The Bear” Browning, and drummer Andy “The Boy” Young—absolutely hated each other.

And that, my friends, was Lift To Experience.

The band’s debut EP, featured in the bonus content, wasn’t particularly revelatory. If anything, it represented the infatuation that Denton-area bands had with the burgeoning post-rock scene. The gentleness of “With The World Behind” found Pearson singing a hymn with a choirboy’s tender touch and shimmering shoegaze-minded guitar, while “Liftin’ On Up” is a seven minute noise rock suite that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Sonic Youth record. “Falling From Cloud 9” would reappear on the album, though it doesn’t hint at what was to come, its rough edges soon to be massaged into something much more compelling.

The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads provides a ninety minute trip into the psyche of a very religious young man who fronts a band who has been assigned the God-given duty of writing a hit record to bring people to God’s promised land—Texas. That the group in the story is a three-piece and fronted by a young farmer who fronts a rock band and who has spiritual anxieties about his destiny blurs the line between fantasy and autobiography. The songs are big, cinematic landscapes that are potent, atmospheric, and capture the feel of the open, arid spaces that constitute much of the state. Pearson’s voice guides the listener, a gentle cloud by day, a menacing pillar of fire at night. Furthermore, there weren’t any bands that sounded like this; Lift to Experience was something wholly without precedent.

When The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads appeared in 2001, it did so to little fanfare; label Bella Union was still in its infancy, and so its release was limited at best—no distribution in the United States meant one had to pay import prices for it when one did find it—but it did earn the band a small following in England and Europe. Word-of-mouth soon spread about this really weird band and its apocalyptic concept album, but it was too little, too late; between drug and alcohol abuse, mental anguish, and the sudden death of Browning’s wife, the band imploded. Young was infamously given “the boot” by Pearson in 2003, when a package appeared on his doorstep with a boot inside and a note saying that he’d been fired. Fun fact: Young put said boot up on eBay, where yours truly threw down a bid of a hundred bucks for it. (I could sense an infamous piece of rock and roll lore in the making!)

The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads is the sort of album that can only be made once. It’s not a surprise, then, that the band struggled to follow it up. It’s an intense, unique concept that engulfed its creators, so much so that the three really haven’t done much sense, with only Pearson pursuing a solo career—and a very limited, tentative one at that, though his sole solo album, Last Of The Country Gentlemen, was warmly received. This reissue does a great service to reintroducing the world to one of the best records you’ve probably never heard.

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