Pure X - Crawling Up The Stairs

The vivid personal nature of the newly emerged vocals give ‘Crawling’ a more distinct intensity than its predecessor.

Label: Merok / Acephale

Rating: 7

If ‘Pleasure’ was Pure X’s storm, follow up ‘Crawling Up The Stairs’ is the cutting aftermath. Sound-wise, anyway. While their debut saw vocals swept up in a gust of guitar-drenched haze, barely audible for the most part, ‘Crawling’ sees Nate Grace’s cries emerge through a calmer sonic backdrop. But these are more tortured cries of exhaustion than of relief. The Texan band still carries that hauntingly dark energy.
Of course, this is a sound that was already hinted at with the release of ‘Someone Else’ back in March, “come on take me down, deep into your hell” being perhaps a slightly chilling way to break their silence. And yet, it’s the vivid personal nature of the newly emerged vocals – breaching on almost disturbing at times - that gives ‘Crawling’ a more distinct intensity than its predecessor. Understandably, too: this record having resulted from a serious leg injury that left Grace in a state of insomnia and distress. The way both Grace’s and Jenkins’ vocals weave between the wiry falsetto of title track and the barely-controlled furor of ‘Shadows and Lies’ is testament to that struggle.
There’s noticeably a lot more structure too: the songs sound complete this time around. Building on the smoky reverb and restless fuzz we’ve come to expect from Pure X, tracks like ‘I Come From Nowhere’ and ‘I Fear What I Feel’ still sit on a submerging of guitars, but they actually feel like whole songs. More so, the arrangements themselves are a lot less menacing, with cuts like ‘Never Alone’ resembling more the dreamlike beach rock of Real Estate than their own textured drone. That slot has been replaced by intense lyrics instead.
‘Crawling Up The Stairs’, then, is the sound of a band staring down the invasive drag of their own instruments and winning. It’s possibly not to everyone’s taste - no doubt fans of the definiteness of ‘Pleasure’ may turn on this one – but it’s more confident and upfront, less immersed in background noise.