One of the most celebrated bands to define 90’s pop/rock are back with a triumphant record mixing their signature Americana guitar style that made the band radio-play staples in the nineties with tracks like I Don’t Want A Lover, Say What You Want and Black Eyed Boy with a funky, 70’s seasoning, making for a truly spectacular listen.
Hi is the Scottish bands 10th record so a milestone release for front woman Sharleen Spiteri and co who continue to go from strength to strength with their studio releases, however Hi is a slightly different record for the band who dive into much darker, almost-moody territory for much of this release than we have heard on previous records.
Unlike earlier records like White on Blonde, The Hush and Red Book, Hi takes a little longer to get used to and carries a much less commercial sound than the bands 90’s and early noughties juggernaut releases. The mood is much darker and moodier and that vein runs through the majority of Hi but after a few listens you won’t be able to turn this record off.
Mr Haze is a big band and Motown-influenced heavy hitter that cracks the lid wide open on the bands first release since 2017’s Jump On Board. The outfit pull out all the stops with this track which welcomes Texas back to the forefront of the UK mainstream scene as they continue to explore daring musical landscapes that have been hinted at throughout the bands illustrious recording career. White On Blonde meets Xanadu here as Spiteri puts her impeccable vocal stamp on one of the bands most fun and multi-layered recordings of the past decade.
You Can Call Me is signature Texas and wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the bands 1997 release, The Hush with its middle of the road pop influences and syrupy horn filled chorus.
When I first heard the lead and title track for the record, I have to admit I was quite disappointed. As an avid fan of Texas and Spiteri as a solo musician from the bands very first release in 1989, Hi, in it’s Wu Tang Clan form, fell as flat as a pancake for me and made me slightly nervous that one of my all-time favourite acts were on a decline. While I enjoyed the collaboration between Texas and the American hip hop collective on their re-recording of Say What You Want back in the nineties, Hi in its original form sounds more a Wu Tang track than a Texas single with Spiteri providing nothing more than the tracks repetitive chorus. Thankfully, for myself and fans alike who took to social media to cry out for another version, the collaborative version of Hi is also accompanies by the single version minus the Clan’s over-welcomed contribution.
Falling was an immediate favourite upon first listen to the record and remains so after a good dozen repeats of the album; swaying vocals delivered in sublime form from Spiteri as she carries the tracks hook laden and stirring chorus around her bandmate’s impeccable instrumentation and an eerie backing vocal. The slow burning centrepiece to Hi is easily one of the finest recordings from the bands post 2000’s catalogue; its atmospheric and playful use of rattling sounds and unnerving backing vocals create a beautifully crafted cinematic pop ballad.
Had To Leave is a swaying ballad with a rich chorus complete with a subtle backdrop of strings and memorable key change that makes this one a memorable addition to Hi while the piano-led Unbelievable sets itself apart from the rest with a more stripped back and almost unplugged style that showcases Spiteri’s absolutely flawless and seasons vocal skills that make Texas one of the most celebrated and faultless pop/rock acts of the last 30 years. While the majority of Hi sees Texas in full-throttle mode with punchy, Motown-esque tracks worthy of a stadium, tracks like Unbelievable and the sweet, acoustic Dark Fire give us a moment to take a breath and admire the Scots versatility of fantastic balladry.
Spiteri’s distinctive voice – a voice that has become such a dominant force in music over the course of over 30 years – continues to impress as she belts out hit after hit and 10 albums in there is no sign of things becoming weathered and slowing down any time soon as she continues to turn out punchy foot stompers and alongside eye watering ballads as gracefully and skilfully today as she did back when the band released their breakthrough hit, I Don’t Want A Lover back in 1989.
Hi is another remarkable release for the Scot collective and a welcome release to hopefully trigger another tour for the band to promote the record perhaps outside of their long-awaited and many times postponed 30th anniversary tour of Southside at the start of 2022.
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