It was a classic reinvention coup.
The Scottish band Texas went from being a smart country rock takeoff act to fusion pop connoisseurs with their fourth LP, White on Blonde (1997). The album didn’t thumb its nose at the prevailing boyish Britpop sounds of the late 1990s UK scene―Texas' biggest market―but it wasn’t indebted to it either. Instead, White on Blonde found some weird and wonderful space where it, Northern Soul and adult contemporary cohabitated. This was owed to the efforts of the group’s unchanging creative hub: Ally McErlaine (guitar), Johnny McElhone (bass guitar), and Sharleen Spiteri (vocals, guitar).
The follow-up to White on Blonde was The Hush (1999), one of the finest blue-eyed soul albums ever recorded. These two projects confirmed Texas' fidelity to sonic development that stretched into the first half of the 2000s. However, they were soon to learn a troublesome pop caveat― not every musical reset may be received as rapturously as others. There was their slick, but tough paean to power pop with Careful What You Wish For (2003) and the synth-pop finesse of Red Book (2005). Stylish pieces, yes, but the British record-buying public and critics had grown indifferent to Texas. It was a situation they weren't unfamiliar with as it echoed the criminal cold shoulder their post-Southside (1989) albums Mothers Heaven (1991) and Ricks Road (1993) had endured.
Texas went on a hiatus that stretched for nearly a decade after Red Book.
When Texas reconvened and released The Conversation in 2013, it was an unexpected surprise; a record that saw them enclasp their studio prowess, but return to the full band sound that made them famous at the start of their career. Jump On Board, their ninth album, could be considered a continuation of that precursor LP at the surface of its 10 tracks. The truth? Jump On Board maps what Texas does best, a glossy-to-organic pop composite, replete with insistent melodies and imaginative arrangements, all of it powered by Sharleen Spiteri's breathtaking voice.
Spiteri's range knows no bounds here and has lost none of its seductive qualities. Shades of Chrissie Hynde and Diana Ross come across in Spiteri's darkened, but sybaritic coloring of the Italo-Western number “Can't Control,” to awesome effect. There's a fantastic arena rock rescripting of Supremes soul-pop on “Great Romances” and a skyscraping ballad in “Round the World” that make quite a case for Spiteri as a talent that rarely gets her due.
McElhone and McErlaine are also in fine form on Jump On Board, as players themselves and a guiding hand to the Texas session players under their direction. The instrumentation is determined, but not too forceful, lending a layered quality to Jump On Board where its grooves reveal themselves upon subsequent spins. This method can be heard on the set's first single, the lowlit disco “chucka-chucka-chucka” of “Let's Work It Out.”
Jump On Board luxuriates in its own proficiency and, when looking across Texas's established discography, expands the group’s already-rich track record that any number of today's bands can (and should) take cues from. Sure, there will be some that will see this approach as a band coasting on its past glories. It's true that the band isn't searching for the ebb of “what's next,” but they're far from lazy. Rather, Texas is offering a sound cultivated over 27 years that has finally reached the full peak of its flavor, and it's meant to be savored.
Notable Tracks: “Can't Control” | “Great Romances” | “Let's Work It Out” | “Round the World”