The first single from The Brian Shapiro Band’s third album You Me Future Now, “Better In TX”, is equal parts human and politically inspired screed. It isn’t as issue oriented as lesser songwriters might have attempted, Shapiro is too cagey for that, and instead grounds his lyrics in human experience rather than proselytizing.
Make no mistake, however; Shapiro’s views are clear. He finds the Lone Star state incredulous, mired in backward thinking, and likely responsible for contributing to the suffering of its residents. The song’s chorus goes in for a little finger pointing, but it’s never too strident. Shapiro and his bandmates, particularly drummer Ben Kutner-Duff, are clearly aiming to entertain listeners first and foremost. All other considerations are secondary.
It is a bit of an anomaly for the band. The rootsy piano running through the track certainly breaks with their accustomed method of doing things and the inclusion of second singer Amelia Bushell puts a new spin on Shapiro’s formula. I use the term formula loosely because there’s really no two Brian Shapiro Band songs that sound alike, but Shapiro and his cohorts have a way of coloring outside the lines that maintains its artistry. There’s no way you’ll ever hear them mucking around with no discernible end game.
The structure of the song pays deference to tradition as well. Shapiro tends to eschew anything “commonplace” in his songs in favor of shaking the listener out of their supposed lethargy. It is especially successful in this case. Anyone familiar with bluesy song progressions will recognize a lot of what is going on during “Better in TX” and the piano riffing raises it to glorious heights along the way. Integrating the instrument into the Shapiro Band’s typical line of attack makes for an invigorating listening experience.
Shapiro’s theatrical vocal style does nothing to undercut the song’s message. It seizes upon the inherent ridiculousness of the situation without ever sounding too stagy or overwrought. The production spotlights Shapiro and Bushell’s vocals alike and emphasizes their interplay. No singer attempts trumping the other. Instead, they both serve the song and “Better in TX” soars under their steady musical hand.
It is an excellent choice for the first album single because it underlines two of the band’s core strengths. Shapiro pens material engaged with the world as it is, not as we might like it to be, an=d he never fails to impose a vulnerable human veneer over even his most satirical cuts. It is a winning combination.
APPLE MUSIC: https://music.apple.com/us/album/better-in-tx-feat-amelia-bushell/1653902983?i=1653902985
“Better in TX” may not make Shapiro too many new Texans as fans, his take on the state is pretty scathing, but its intelligence and musical value is beyond question. It’s an ideal first single for The Brian Shapiro Band’s new album You Me Future Now and bodes well for the remainder of the release. Dig into this track and enjoy its riches knowing that the album holds many other surprises for adventurous listeners. It is well worth seeking out today and will continue entertaining you long after your first listen.