Texas Tea: Sad Summer Hits
- The fortunes of the alt. country scene in Brisbane might go up and down, but whatever they may be, Texas Tea remain a reliable fixture and, let's face it, with Texas Tea about, those fortunes can surely never sink too low.
As everyone's been pointing out on the net, Ben P. Dougherty and Kate Jacobson's trusty little duo have beaten all contenders out for the number one spot in 4ZZZ's Hot 100, twice now, with their very likeable brand of country melancholia cut with smiling retro-pop sweetness. In the best possible way, it feels like they've been about much longer than just two long-players - Take A Sip & Junkship Recordings. Whatever, it's one to which I'm always happy to receive additions.
The first advance off the new record Sad Summer Hits was the appropriately bitter and ironic I Don't Write No Sad Songs. Dougherty's voice drops down into his leathery boots and with a lovely, rich timbre, grinds out his grim refusal to take any more of your crap, you hear that ladies? It features a big chorus too, Jacobson keening over the top of the wailing guitar. It's a great start to a story that you know is hardly over. Ben & Kate belting the bejesus out of each other, back and forth across the course of the record.
Second single Heart Says Yes (Head Says No) brings the other half of the Texas Tea sound, with a snappy, upbeat doo-wop song about seductively bad love. Dougherty's riff is extremely catchy and, judging by the level of play, I'll be less than surprised if this doesn't wind up on top of the heap when 4ZZZ's Hot 100 rolls around this year.
Beyond what we've heard already, there's more to like amongst these Sad Summer Hits. The Teas have been fussing over the thing like it was some kinda difficult second record, recruiting a rhythm section (drummer Myka Wallace and string bassist Jo Muller, direct from a rather different but undeniably groovy outfit, Laneous & The Family Yah) and furrowing their brows incessantly over how every song fits together with every other.
Despite all the noodling, this still feels pretty much like a Texas Tea record. Perhaps its most significant feature is how they've taken the battle-of-the-sexes thing to some seriously unforgiving lengths. The sweet spoonfuls of country-pop that ease the grim doses of hardship become few and far between as the record continues. This trend reaches its culmination in I Love You Like A Black Eye, which is a bit of a doozy. Starting out a little drily conceptual, you get the formula from the title: I love you like (something I hate, something I hate A LOT). It reaches a very real and miserable climax however, one from which there is no returning. The record bleeds out, as it were, on The Old Swing which – I'm not sure, the lyrics seem deliberately vague – but it sounds something like a gallows soliloquy for poor Kate, and it reaches a just-about post-rocking intensity in what is a seriously dark curtain-drop for Sad Summer Hits.
I'm a sucker for that kind of thing, but it did leave me reeling. I'm curious as to how other folks react to that intensity. You can decide for yourself, shortly, when Sad Summer Hits blossoms like the bud of love into a darkening bruise in a store near you. Enjoy!
- Chris Cobcroft.