Pure X Get Raw On Crawling Up The Stairs


When Pure X released Pleasure in 2011, it immediately connected as an indulgent masterpiece. They wrote 60s-sounding pop songs (see especially “Easy,” for example) and played them like drugged out kids from the late 80’s (a la Galaxie 500). They sounded like the Jesus and Mary Chain on some really chill downers. Nate Grace’s guitar, laden with effects, meandered all over each track, anchored by the rock solid rhythm section of Jesse Jenkins (bass) and Austin Youngblood (drums). Pleasure resulted in some stellar tracks (“Dry Ice,” “Twisted Mirror,” “Easy”) and probably the most aesthetically cohesive record to come out of Austin that year.

You can still hear remnants of that Pure X on their latest release, Crawling Up The Stairs, but a very different band emerges on this record. On Pleasure, Grace and Co. seemed to want to shroud themselves in mystery, but on C.U.T.S. they are ready to be uncomfortably emotionally honest. “Someone Else” – the second track on the record – is the most obvious break from their previous style. The vocals are intelligible, and they often crack and howl as they describe one man’s descent into despair and madness. It’s one of the rawest vocal tracks I’ve heard in the last few years, and its earnestness is a departure from the ironic veneer that protects so many hip, indie bands these days. Grace went to a dark place in the making of this record and he wants you to know what that felt like – sentiments also conveyed through tracks like “Shadows and Lies” and “How Did You Find Me.”

Yet the elements of the Pure X from Pleasure are on display, as well. “Things In My Head” is a minor, Southwestern version of a Kurt Vile track. It’s a catchy mid-tempo number that illustrates the group’s strong songwriting abilities in a more 21st century setting than their previous work. “Thousand Year Old Child” builds just as patiently as “Twisted Mirror” and recalls late 60s/early 70s psychedelic pop slathered with overdubbed guitar squalls.

In fact, that meandering guitar still rears its head all over this record, from the hazy opener “Crawling Up the Stairs” to the sublime late-album instrumental “Rain At Dawn.” It adds color to the more 90s-influenced “How Did You Find Me,” making the song so much more than just a retread of its influences.

Some tracks mine entirely new territory altogether, though. For example, “I Fear What I Feel” is a falsetto rendering of an XX song, with a lot more funk. It doesn’t exactly sound like anything else that Pure X have done before, but it still rocks pretty heavily.

During the making of Crawling Up The Stairs, Pure X was beset by a lot of personal difficulties, and that emotion heavily influenced the sound of the record. However, they also seem to have realized how many possible directions they’re capable of heading in. They are gifted songwriters and talented performers pushing the limits of their imaginations here. The result is not as coherent as Pleasure was, but opens up a lot more doors for their future. With a whole lot of great songs thrown in for good measure.

– Carter Delloro