Brix and the Extricated
Super Blood Wolf Moon
Grit Over Glamour Records
9/10 for a glorious album that sees Brix break free from the Lovecraftian clank and grind of the Fall without losing those glorious Hanley bass lines and create shimmering music of her own.
We knew she was good but were not expecting this.
No longer content with the prison of cult status or the surviving on the dust and mirrors of nostalgia, Brix has only gone and made one of the albums of the year. An album that buries the past whilst still respecting it in a delirious, stunning, beautiful series of songs that ooze broken hearts, intense emotions and the joy of guitars coerced into a thrilling melodic trip.
Brix Smith has stepped out beyond the psychic Lovecraftian octopus tentacle clutches of the Fall and created an album that breaks free of that great group’s dense gravity and into a wonderful world of her own.
There have, of course, been hints of this before.
After all, in The Fall she added light, melody and a perfumed texture to the classic clank and grind of that band and her solo excursions like Incense and peppermints were twisted psychic, psychedelic shivers.
Her comeback, after years in the media and fashion business, initially relied on the old group’s uber grind – after all, she still had the greatest rhythm section of the Hanley’s from the wreckage of the Fall in her line up. They started by reclaiming their Fall corner – the songs and the6 had helped create and when it came to time to record there was an intoxicating brew of her melodic prowess and the pull of the underground moternik from the Fallen and that worked.
This time, though, this time, Brix has broken free and the album is a series of wonderful, psychedelic guitar pop that embraces the past but shivers into its own glorious future. The guitars shimmer and shake and play with your cortex, the rhythm section is as machine-like as ever but there is even a fluidity there and the melodies are exquisite.
Brix’s voice has never sounded better – these songs suit her. This is not the dreams of Blondie and perfect pop but her own pop, on her own terms. This is Brix at a mature artist that dares to tear the fabric of pop, that dares to embrace the melodic touch. This is a guitar pop that is adventurous and yet addictively claustrophobic, intense and beautiful. The songs tumble by, dripping a femininity, and each one is captivating. The electricity is played out as she lays her fractured life, that she detailed in her autobiography, bare but there is plenty of sugar to make this work.
Every song is classic pop. They are full of hand-clapping melody, brusque bass lines that are as hooky as you would expect from the hands of Steve Hanley and cascading guitars but always with massive hooks and big choruses. Yet there is a dark undertow. Lyrically Brix is dealing with the dark side with songs of the uncomfortableness of depression, drug addiction, death and loss. There is an outward look at the label feeling of despair in ‘Strange Times’ resulting in the over medicating culture referred to in ‘Dinosaur Girl’ and climate change in ‘Wasteland’ whilst ‘Crash Landing’ deals with drug overdose and suicide.
Dinosaur Girl is catchy and yet menacing – a fusion between Brix’s love of the tune and the Hanley love of the driving, dark bassline. Hustler starts with those impatient chants that hark back to the old group, embracing impatient breathless vocals. The opening Strange Times is the narcotic, blissful beauty of the Velvets chiming guitars knotted together with perfect and pristine vocals that are full of sweetness and danger.
Wolves has those chiming guitars that are an echo of the Beatles Revolver pomp – three guitar players allowing each other to breathe – a feat in itself! The song also has a huge chorus that should be all over 6music but by the time I’ve ended typing this review, Waterman is the closet we get to the Fall, with one of those classic Hanley bass lines holding the fort on the intro in an atmospheric piece.
The album is full of these gems, each song is its own empire, a place to get lost in full of melody and ideas and intense emotional workouts and yet captivating, blissful classic guitar pop.
It ends with the God Stone a brooding apocalyptic piece that starts with moody strings and builds and builds into an emotional apocalypse – a fitting end to a stunning journey.