The Q Reviews
We found the Q Magazine reviews about the 5 Texas albums.
Collectors of spaghetti western soundtracks, piqued at the lack of bands catering to their epic tastes, may now relax, for Texas, as their successful debut single I Don't Want A Lover revealed, deal in the kind of atmospheric slide guitar pieces that bring to mind early Clint Eastwood movies.
Hailing from the deep south-the deep south of Glasgow, that is - this four-piece band who formed in 1987 have hit a canny commercial streak on their first album by combining blues-based material with glossy '80s production, aimed at a mainstream audience and purists alike. The accessible nature of these 10 songs also owes a debt to the presence in the group of drummer Stuart Kerr and bassist Johnny McElhone, previously in chart-orientated Scottish bands Hipsway and Love And Money. An agreeable musical mixture that includes the polished ingredients of clipped funk, Hammond organ, and hard-rock flourishes, the Texas sound takes direction from vocalist Sharleen Spiteri, singing the thin line between honky-tonk histrionics and standard radio fare. As she muses on the vicissitudes of love and life-the former occupy most of her attention-guitarist Alistair McErlaine shows off a playing technique cribbed from George Thorogood and Ry Cooder.
There are at least three other surefire hit singles here. Tell Me Why finds Sharleen struggling in the quicksands of a doomed romance, as McErlaine dusts off swamp-rock chords; Thrill Has Gone explores similar emotional territory. The highlight of the set, though, is Prayer For You, recalling the Rolling Stones' Sympathy For The Devil with its fiercely scrubbed intro, and a solo that echoes Keith Richards before developing into a more modern assault. The other songs, if less obviously commercial, should keep the group in work on soundtracks: Fight The Feeling would fit most Hollywood plots, and brat-pack actors would relish the chance to perform to the title track's bottle-neck work-out.
Texas will receive no prizes in the late '80s for originality, but they'll be reaping the commercial and critical rewards of this smooth LP for some time.
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Reviewed By : Henry Williams.
Responsible for one of 1989's more distinctive hits with their defiant, rootsy single I Don't Want A Lover, bluesy Glaswegian rockers Texas still found it hard to capitalise on their early triumph, touring hard to promote a patchy debut album. Still suspended somewhere in the never-never land between unfulfilled potential and established success, they continue to perplex. Working again with archetypal rock producer Tim Palmer, they create a rich sound for this second album that makes strong use of both the moody slide guitar skills of Ally McErlaine and the keyboard flair of new member Eddie Campbell. At their best Texas can sound like Ry Cooder at his most haunting, as on the brooding, filmic This Will All Be Mine, or Lone Justice at their most ebullient, as with the full-blooded rock'n'roll of Beliefs. But the face of the band, singer Sharleen Spiteri, is no Maria McKee, and the intermittent weakness of her vocals can also be unsettling.
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Reviewed By : David Roberts.
Texas's third album was recorded at Bearsville Studios in Woodstock (Rick's Road is the dirt track that leads to it), where previous tenants include Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and Janis Joplin and there, this Scottish quintet now seem to have found their ideal environment. As is curiously often the case with north of the border rock groups, theirs is a folk/rock approach that sounds more traditionally American than almost anything from there over the last 20 or so years, but this album gets a grip on it with more authority than before. Here, the crisp urban boogies that support most of the songs are so strong that the swampy guitars are allowed to exert themselves to a greater degree without becoming overbearing. It gives their trademark rural blues greater confidence and lets it vary through the jaunty I've Been Missing You and Fade Away, the swoopy gospel on So In Love With You and the all-out country rock Beautiful Angel and Winters End, while stamping a clearly identifiable Texas style across them all.
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Reviewed By : Lloyd Bradley.
Album number four is not the big move into Marvin Gaye territory that the single, Say What You Want, might suggest. Rather, it's a typically understated, but still ambitious reflection of catholic musical tastes: rock, pop, soul, hip hop. Big strings, laid-back but driving beats, slinky funk, rootsy guitar and Memphis soul, along with a Motown pastiche and a couple of less impressive Celine Dion lungbusters. Texas's real assets, however, remain Sharleen Spiteri's voice and Ally McErlane's seductive guitar work, the simplicity of which allows such influences to be used sparingly but effectively. Their weak point remains their lyrics, attempts to dress up their tales of troubled souls and wavering relationships as something arty instead of honing them. They could do with cutting loose a bit more often too, but there are enough strong songs, such as the Isaac Hayes-styled Good Advice, and neat creative surprises (the witty Polo City) to recycle the past without falling into polished blandness.
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Reviewed By : Ian Cranna.
A firm of fancy media analysts called Universal McCann recently conducted some research into Channel 4's T.F.I. Friday, and discovered that many viewers now consider it to be "naff TV", alongside Noel's House Party. These findings did not displace the earth from its axis, but it was interesting that the show's credibility slide was attributed to "burnout of audience enthusiasm" and "the Chris Evans Factor". Thus, the Chris Evans Factor now indicates naff by association. But two years ago, it meant the opposite. Texas owe their revitalised career to the old-money Chris Evans Factor, which is not to denigrate the quality of their music - or indeed the work of the talented continental gentlemen who routinely photograph them - but at the start of 1997, when their fourth album, White On Blonde, had yet to change the world, having Chris Evans on your side was a real help. In the final weeks of his turbulent, station-saving tenure with Radio 1's Breakfast Show, he gave the kind of support to fanfare single Say What You Want that even '70s radio pluggers bearing mysterious jiffy bags could not buy. Then Evans had singer Sharleen Spiteri on T.F.I. Friday as a guest (she was drinking in the pub opposite the studios when Nigel Benn dropped out, after being arrested). She, and the single, were a smash, and Texas became a T.F.I. Friday fixture. Why, they were on even more than the Lightning Seeds. But by the end of 1997, T.F.I. Friday owed one to the Sharleen Spiteri Factor. So their former carrot-top patron is naff. But are Texas ? They certainly aren't supercool, not even after the unlikely team-up with Wu-Tang Clan : Spiteri's elephant-and-gazelle duet with Method Man was a Chumbawamba-trumping highlight of Brits '98, and in recorded form arguably the most exciting music Texas had committed to disc. The 5' 5" Glaswegian may have been the unwitting pop face of 1997, but she was way too down to earth in interview to carry off the boy-Venus chic ladled upon her by whoever style commentators are. Having spent the first half of the decade as failures (actually, their third album Ricks Road went to Number 18 but it's all comparative), Texas were the last band expected to fly during 1997. But by the end of the year, White On Blonde had been to Number 1 twice, was triple-platinum in Britain alone (it's now sold over four million globally), and proud parent of five Top 10 singles. Call it the Texas chainstore massacre. But popularity is no friend of cool, and their phenomenal resurrection sealed Texas's fate as a coffee table act, a nice coffee table, perhaps from Ikea, but neither naff nor cool. This cultural androgyny is a position of supreme strength. Texas had little to lose by adopting a mainstream pop sheen and allowing their singer's nice fringe to represent them. But The Hush, which neatly marks their 10-year anniversary, makes White On Blonde seem like a means rather than an end. This is what Texas always wanted to sound like. And that fact, in its own way, is cool enough. Spiteri, who likens it in career terms to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, claims that The Hush is "the Texas album we've been building up to throughout our history". It certainly sounds learned, rich and confident, almost to the point of eliciting the cry, Where have this band been all our lives ? Although guitars are in evidence (Texas used to be a rock band, you know), the drums are a blend of skin, timber and sample, and everything is layered like a cake. Of the 12 tracks, 10 sound like singles, no messing about. It's that commercial. God help whoever has to fetch the coffee at the record company meetings where they decide which four to actually release. In Our Lifetime, which sensibly kicks off proceedings, has already been a single. It lodges permanently in the brain, Say What You Want-style, after three listens, its courageous Cantonese riff more indebted to Aneka than the po-faced Orientalism of Japan's Tin Drum album. In arrangement and aspiration it sets the tone, featuring many Sharleen Spiteris singing at once, each of them breathy, one doing Princely hiccups. When she sexily repeats, "I just can't say no," her voice, to adapt a Clarksonism, could loosen trousers at 40 paces. There is further evidence of The Artist in super-catchy Tell Me The Answer (just assume they're potential hits unless otherwise stated), Spiteri experimenting with a squeaky falsetto for the verses before submitting to an arm-waving "come on, come on, come on" chorus. At the base of the music itself is a delightful collage of plinking, percussive synthesizer sounds. This is pop music you'll either listen to in detail or just allow to wash over you. Recorded mostly in Spiteri's house and produced by co-songwriter Johnny McElhone, The Hush might have been indulgent or introspective. Instead, it's a crowd-pleaser whose at-home breeziness and aplomb increase its urgency to entertain. The wonderful Summer Son begins with a tender, fingered guitar introduction which is swept away by huge disco door-chimes and a house beat. Handclaps are introduced without self-consciousness and the chorus is pure Abba. Lesser men than guitarist Ally McErlaine might resent having so little room to show off. Sunday Afternoon takes the mood down : Spandau Ballet's True with a middle eight involving scratching. The Spice Girls would kill for this. It's official : Spiteri and McElhone are now as good at writing pop songs as those anonymous blokes with highlights in their hair who do it for a living. Production is paramount to The Hush (and we must not undervalue Mark "Spike" Stent's mix), but for all the handsome noise, it's Spiteri's -widening vocal palette that gives the songs personality. Move In is built upon the muscular funk framework of, say, Pull Up To The Bumper, but elevated by a light, hipswaying vocal. In case anyone thinks When We Are Together is standard Motown confection, Texas strip it back to Spiteri and a piano in the middle just to prove how strong it is. For Day After Day, she's Dusty Springfield. Great fun, but listen in, and there's a heart-rending declaration, presumably to boyfriend Ashley Heath : "Day after day without you/I find that there's no-one to touch you/All this madness that I've found/I'm so thankful when you're around/It's true/Yes I do". Burt Bacharach did not write this for her. Saint contains the equally direct line "I love you to death". The Hush's best song, it's moving and serious, with Spiteri breathy and confident enough not to spin vocal cartwheels (one day, someone will tell Celine Dion and Mariah Carey that they too could sing like this). After all the bluster, it's admirably understated, and McErlaine gets his moment in the sun too. If Texas had believed the style magazines, this album might have turned out to be a major disappointment. The dub-style bass and effects-laden voice on its title track prove that they can play at Massive Attack at the drop of a woolly hat, and Zero Zero, a brief, obtuse instrumental marrying John Barry to Tubeway Army, reinforces the point: any idiot can sound cool. These are the two tracks which wouldn't be hits. Coincidence ? Texas may not be cool, and their fifth album may not be rock, or indie, or dance, but it is rare pop music that possesses both a collective personality and accumulated wisdom. Those who sneered at the band's reinvention (which was, after all, little more than relieving the boys of their photographic duties) will remain stoutly unmoved by an album whose magic lies in technical and vocal bravado over attitude or passion. But in these days of Steps, Billie and Jayne Middlemiss, Texas may prove to be as essential to pop music as Manic Street Preachers are to rock.
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Reviewed By : Andrew Collins.