The Hush

With heavy heart, we address the [a]Texas[/a] enigma once more....

The Hush

4 / 10 With heavy heart, we address the Texas enigma once more. We really, truly wanted to be caught off-guard by their fifth LP, but the signs are not good. That cod-portentous, Annie Lennox-style title hardly bodes well for starters. Sharleen Spiteri's live reputation as Celine Dion without the explosive sexual charisma scarcely helps either. We inevitably anticipated another helping of antiseptic soul and asexual healing, and Texas - bless their impeccably sculpted hair - do not disappoint.

The problem is not, as Texas apologists claim, that their brand of evergreen soul-pop is considered 'uncool' by fad-obsessed London critics with our sinister book-learning ways. Far from it - remember the riot of blandly positive style-mag coverage their four-million-selling comeback smash 'White On Blonde' attracted in 1997, largely thanks to the band's half-hearted and spectacularly belated espousal of DJ culture.

In fact, the trouble with Texas is that they are far too cool for their own good. That's 'cool' as in emotionally aloof, unruffled and as tastefully Nordic as a stripped-pine Ikea desk. 'Cool' as in a lightly-chilled glass of designer water served in a minimalist Islington brasserie. 'Cool' as in the regulation cast of approved 'good taste' influences from Marvin Gaye to Al Green, Prince to Diana Ross, Massive Attack to the Wu-Tang Clan. The list is endless but sadly, with 'The Hush', the end is listless. Because, if anything, 'The Hush' is even less challenging and diverse than the hit-packed 'White On Blonde'.

In fairness, these 12 tracks perform their ear-soothing job with ruthless efficiency, from the opulent swingbeat trundle of 'In Our Lifetime' to the polite trip-hop lament 'The Day Before I Went Away', from Sharleen's falsetto Prince allusions on 'Tell Me The Answer' to her smouldering Smokey Robinson homage 'Day After Day'. All pleasing enough, but each over-produced to death. However anodyne Texas songs might be, Sharleen undeniably possesses a Great Voice. So it is simply maddening that every emotionally-charged quaver is forever drowned out by thick, syrupy arrangements and the sort of lazy greetings-card sentiments which can choke a horse from half-a-mile away.

How much better 'The Hush' might have been if the Abba-tinged retro-disco of 'Summer Son' had been left in its raw form, or the tremulous Chrissie Hynde sobs of 'Saint' had remained unadorned - or even if the Air-style electro-chug of 'Zero Zero' had been stretched into a proper song instead of an instrumental afterthought. All potentially interesting diversions squandered as the safe path is trodden once more.

It goes without saying that 'The Hush' will sell millions and soundtrack chic dinner parties galore. And that style mags will proclaim it another genius comeback. And that Chris Evans will drool over each increasingly soporific single. With or without an NME endorsement, this LP will do its job just fine. But so, alas, must we.

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