So here we arrive, four years in, to the third chapter of Pure X. As their covers now seem to illustrate, this a band that works in deliberate miniature but in the most restless possible fashion. Part I (Pleasure) was the drugs and the decor, sluggish and sublime. It didn’t hit a wrong note or tone, and it refused to wear out its welcome. Part II (Crawling Up The Stairs) was all wrong notes. It was a hot mess, retching all over its former grace in brazen abandon. Still, a calm somehow persisted. Pure X’s strident, endless drift equilibrium beckoned to itself insistently. Part III (Angel) has now served up a Pure X that pays tribute to mellow burnout 70s/80s soft rock while setting the bar for this sort of music to a new high. On top of that, the same faded jeans, heat-vision vibe — that hushed, shadowy essence that made them stick out in the first place — is ever present.
Meticulously recorded at Wied Hall in central Texas (with now full-time touring member Matty Tommy Davidson), one needn’t fear that the group’s new-found AM gold is at all pyrite. The rich, roomy tonal fidelity on display is a big part of what makes Angel click. There’s a true and subtly endearing marriage made here between what’s always made these guys great and a bit of judicious heart-on-the-sleeve traditionalism. One is never given the chance to balk or yawn it off. If you’re a follower, it’s not likely you’re looking for something that’s going to tie your brain in knots or make you shit your pants anyway. This is chill-out music applied with a songwriter’s panache and a sleepy kinda love that’s easy to curl up with. It’s consistently a little off, but never at the expense of the hook.
They’re not smearing greased breadcrumbs on you like Ariel Pink getting their Viceroy birddog skeeve on you like Mac DeMarco, or dousing you in smirking daditude like Heidecker & Wood; but as it often is with these all these guys, there are some MOR miracles happening, and you know by now that you needn’t resist getting all slow-mo elbows and shaking your stupid butt around. Currently touring with Real Estate, Pure X seem well matched, though I could see them stealing a show or two. Both groups have a knack for music that is both powder lite and indelible in equal measure. Yet what comes through here way more than with the aforementioned acts is a wholehearted ability to commit to excellence and writing honest-to-goodness infectious soft rock jams.
“Wishin’ on the Same Star” is somewhat Ween-reminiscent in its unabashed dumb-dumb innocence and infuriating irresistibility. This and the T-Rex-y “Fly Away with Me Woman” push stupid to the point of cracking up, then, despite their few minute run-times, gradually turn into things of beauty. It’s tough to explain, but “Wishin’” is somehow the quintessential album closer. It’s on a ferryboat and pushing lustily but lazily through the moons rippling reflection. A squirrel and a small bear and a jug of ale and hoverin’ grouplins of lightning bugs. “Livin The Dream” is a complete knockout, arguably the strongest Pure X song yet. These melodies and vocal stylings may have ample precedent, but the feel and direction of this song show just how much the raw muscle and quiet intensity of their tightly coiled, patient musicianship obliterates anything close to banality from seeping in. “White Roses” is a pretty sweet companion piece to Pleasure highlight “Surface,” with its Mac Attack slow groove and barely-there keyboards. Sickly sweet riches abound.
I hesitate to rate this album a 5. Why is that? Politics? I dunno. It’s winsome as usual for Pure X, so whatever it says up there, just know that I think it’s a perfect album that, if given a chance, could be the next Moon Safari, and I don’t think anyone would balk at a 5/5 for that album. Even if one’s a bit chaffed by this particular chapter, Pure X continue to at the very least show themselves to be worthy of keeping an ear on. But why not go ahead take Angel in for the dusty ray of golden sunshine that it is and be grateful. Let it find the softest part and make a meal of you. You’re in safe hands.