The Shacklewell Arms
Drugs. They’re rife within popular music. Especially within the type that Texan trio Pure X make, courtesy of a Spiritualized habit they just can’t (or won’t) kick. Even their name stems from illegal chemicals, shortened from Pure Ecstasy earlier this year.
Almost shamefully indebted to The Jesus & Mary Chain and a number of other early 90s seminal shoegazers, the band’s debut album, ‘Pleasure’, remains aptly titled, drifting along in the most mellow of fashions, their simplest of drum beats constantly on the brink of stopping altogether. It’s a pleasingly dreary collection of space noise and soothing drones. Live, as this evening proves, Pure X are a different trip; a less seductive thrill; a bit of a bore.
Largely bathed in red light with dry ice hissing out of a pipe behind them, all of the druggy, ethereal rock trimmings are there, except for the odd warmth of the band’s recorded songs. The Shacklewell Arms is full and hot, but the music is cold and automatic, against the best intentions of the three men in front of us. It’s singer/guitarist Nate Grace’s desperate (and admittedly heartfelt) cries that are particularly off putting. He’s trying to give us a show; to let us know that these songs mean something; but where he softly sings on record he rasps onstage, grabbing the mic at one point and clutching his own head as he wails out. The bass grooves on (at an uncharacteristically booming volume) and at times, especially on the most delicate, flange-tickling, downbeat numbers, the drums seem to drift out of time, even though they more often than not consist of two beats.
Oddly, no else seems to notice or care, and as Pure X play on, the dry ice squirts away and everyone in front of the band whistle and cheer and nod approvingly to each other, I realise just how much like drugs they are – no fun at all if you’re the only person at the party not on them.
By Stuart Stubbs
Originally published in issue 33 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. November 2011.