Let’s see… “a concept album about the end of the world where Texas is the Promised Land.” So goes Lift to Experience’s description of The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads. Is it just me, or does that sound so 1999? We all know that the world didn’t end, but somehow, I think that fact escaped this trio of Texas rockers. The new millenium has begun without too much of a hitch, and we’ve yet to see the Rapture. But listening to The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads, you have to wonder if Christ’s return is just around the corner. And if you believe Lift to Experience’s convictions, then they’ll be the ones leading the children of Israel into the Holy Land.
The first thing you’ll notice about The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads is the sheer magnitude of Lift to Experience’s sound. Frontman Josh Pearson wrangles all manner of tones from his guitar, from delicate melodies (“Down Came The Angels”) to cyclones of noise so overwhelming they’d make Kevin Shields weep (“Falling From Cloud 9,” “Waiting To Hit”). Matching Pearson’s expressive guitar are his equally emotive vocals, reminiscent of Jeff Buckley or a younger, more convicted Bono. And he’s matched musically, stride for stride, by Andy “The Boy” Young on drums and Josh “The Bear” Browning on bass.
But matching the size of Lift to Experience’s sound is the scope of their lyrics. Lift to Experience sings of the upcoming Exodus, when God calls His people into the Promised Land of Texas. We’re talking true “end of the world” stuff here, complete with stories of Divine Intervention, angels descending from the sky, prophecies, and songs that came directly from the throne of God. Spread across two discs, it’s a heady mix of psychedelia and spirituality, the psych-rock equivalent of a good ol’ “end of the world” sermon.
Disc one, titled “Texas,” sets the stage. Three Texas boys get a message from the Angel of God, that they’ll be leading the Children of Israel. At times, the disc sounds like the bio of an Old Testament prophet, what with all of the terror, doubts, and crippling anxiety. It’s on this disc where Pearson’s lyrics contain some truly inspiring thoughts. It’s nigh impossible to not get goosebumps when he sings/drawls “On that railroad underground/Still bound to Texas ’til that great whistle sounds/And if the train does jump the tracks/Don’t think for a second that you’re getting your money back/No exchanges, no refunds/On and on foot ’til you see the rise of the Texas sun” or “If you make it over the Jordan, you still have to make it through the night/And if you reach the Holy City, it won’t be without a fight” with a conviction rarely heard nowadays.
The mood of disc two (“Jerusalem”) is best summed up on “These Are The Days,” when Pearson cries “we’re the best band in the whole damn land… and Texas is the reason.” The vision is secure, and Lift to Experience is confident in their mission. Although the lyrics may lack some of the “emotional” resolve of the first disc, these are still some darn fine songs. By this point, they know better than to ask questions; “Down With The Prophets” finds Pearson concluding “We sing these songs because we have to, not because we want to.” And wouldn’t you know it, by the end of “In The Storm,” they’ve made it, with a triumphant chorus of “We shall all be free” and Pearson pleading the Chosen to “follow me into Texas, into the Promised Land.”
You have to admire a band audacious enough to strike a deal with the Lord for smash hits (“Waiting To Hit”), proclaim with all honesty that they’re the best band around (“These Are The Days”), or state, matter-of-factly, that “the USA is the center of Jerusalem” (“Just As Was Told”). At times, Lift to Experiences appropriation of such imagery does feel a bit sacreligious. But at times, there’s an incredible amount of reverence and humility. And much of the time, it’s a little bit of both. Combine Lift to Experience’s love of divine imagery with their Lone Star State fetish, and you get the feeling that sometimes it’s done tongue in cheek. But then you read their bio, with statements like “the music that I play on my guitar is still the only thing that brings me to [God]” and you have to wonder.
It doesn’t surprise me that the inspiration for these songs came to Pearson while shovelling manure on a horse farm. It’s this dichotomy between the worldliness and the spirituality in their songs that makes Lift to Experience’s music so interesting to me. They’re wrestling with something, be it demons or angels, and these songs are an attempt to understand those struggles. I’m sure that many will hear Lift to Experience’s many Christian references and write them off as just another “Christian” band. And there are those who will see their use of Christian imagery as “questionable.” To those in the former crowd, well, I can’t argue against that kind of stupidity. But to those in the latter, I’ll say this.
For every nonchalant mention of the Promised Land, there’s a desperate cry for God’s mercy and help. For every casual conversation with the Angel of the Lord, there’s a moment of personal introspection. Like great songwriters, Lift to Experience takes the language of their past and crafts it into something meaningful for them. Yeah, so what if they claim that it’s all for beer and women. Pearson sums it up beautifully when he sings “Just a stupid ranchhand/In a Texas rock band/Trying to understand/God’s master plan.”
Someday, “the whole world is gonna shake,” the face of God will be revealed, and we will all be changed. And in all honesty, I wouldn’t be too surprised if a trio of good ol’ Texas boys in dusty jeans and ratty cowboy hats is leading the charge, a shovel in one hand and a Bible in the other.