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Album Review: Brix and the Extricated – Breaking State

Breaking State

It’s just over one year since the release of Brix and the Extricated’s debut album, “Part 2”. They had previously released three singles on “Blang Records”, but this is the first release on their “Grit Over Glamour” label. Having toured the better part of 2018, they’ve still found time to record their second studio album, “Breaking State” in between summer festivals and regular touring.

Brix Smith Start – vocals, guitar / Steve Hanley – bass guitar / Paul Hanley – drums / Steve Trafford – guitar, vocals and Jason Brown – guitar, vocals; have been together as a band since 2014 when the 4 ex-Fall members formed the band with Jason Brown, the fifth member. The legacy of having been in The Fall has been embraced and although you can still hear the influence and unmistakable sound of Hanley’s Bass running through a number of their tracks, the foundations that were laid years ago have provided very solid building blocks for what now has been richly layered into an alternative wall of sound. 

Ironically, the new album has a feeling of being the “Part 2” of their first album. However, having the benefit of touring and playing so many festivals under their belt, there’s an indescribable bond between the band members like they have morphed into one. Unlike The Fall, where you often felt a frailty and chaos in the music, which was the beauty of it as well, there’s a definite cohesiveness with Brix and the Extricated, a togetherness where everyone plays their part and delivers something greater than the sum of their parts. The Drum and Bass, which undoubtedly hold everything together, provide the perfect platform for the expansive, beautifully layered guitars, which have been effectively engineered in stereo so we can enjoy the separation in the mix but have them re-kindled within our brain. The final piece of the jigsaw, Brix’s vocal, has a masterful presence and a subtle dominance which has you captivated like a rabbit in the headlights as she brings “Grit” and “Glamour” to the songs. Her personality comes through in waves throughout the album as she imparts the lyrics for dissemination with her wicked delivery.

The album comprised of 10 songs, the cover art, advertising campaign and the merchandise for ‘Breaking State’ was designed by the renowned comic book illustrator Rufus Dayglo (Tank Girl, 2000AD, Gorillaz, Judge Dredd, Ramones).

Alaska – It’s an eerie opening start, reminiscent of a film soundtrack of a Cohen brothers film or something equally as diverse. It’s not long before the signature edgy raw bass cuts into the eeriness. It’s a sound we’ve come to recognise as the backbone of nearly every Fall recording through the 80’s/90’s[sic]. Of course, this is not the Fall but comparisons have to be drawn for obvious reasons. It’s a dark track with sparse picked guitars and wailing keys the only relief from the doom and gloom of what it must be like to live in almost total darkness in the bleak wasteland of the northernmost state of the USA. Brix’s vocal delivery matches the tone of the song as she sings of being “alone in a total blackout in Alaska”.  

HC – Here we go, the second track kicks some life into the album as it flips from drum/bass driven indie/grunge where the menace in Brix’s voice changes to a mellow almost dreamy chorus and back to the driving indie-verse. The break between verse and chorus takes us right back to classic Fall, if only for a few fleeting seconds before we’re transported into what the band have evolved into. There’s a Jekyll and Hyde feel to the song which prophetically demonstrates how the band can transform back and forth from Fall to Extricated. There is no battle between good and evil here though. 

Dog Face – This next song has an upbeat punchy melody with guitar work which reminds me of Marr/Smiths era during the chorus. The verse, however, awkward and angular which matches the lyrics.  Another well-crafted song which could easily have been a single to launch the album. The juxtaposition between verse and chorus is fabulous.

Prime Numbers – Touted as the lead track from the album, Prime Numbers does demonstrate what the band have become, tight, forthright and accessible. 

American Skies – The beginning of this song has a drum roll reminiscent of The Devine Comedy and an uplifting melody which is beautifully accented with sweet violins and those marvellous guitars. Brix’s half spoken/sung lyrics work well.

Vanity – Similar in delivery to the previous song, Brix’s acerbic lyrics and vocal delivery make the song. The production and a masterful mix are at it’s best in this song. The interlaced strings throughout the song bring a menacing beauty, which is in perfect unison with Brix’s voice until the crashing break where there’s a downward spiral of chaos as “Never, never, never ever, never going home” finally makes way for the sublime ending as the music stops and the spoken words of “Where vanity takes it’s place” eerily end the song.

Sleazebag – As the heavily affected feedback of the strings make way to the swirling picked guitar, Brix snarls and spits out the lyric’s to “Sleazebag”. This is archetypal Brix. It could easily be mistaken for something written by her in a previous life. 

Going Strong – More of a punk feel to this one and “I’m not going quietly, I am going strong” is the message and possibly Brix’s mandate for life these days! 

Heavy Crown – “Heavy is the head that wears the crown” – a charged and brutal track which has the guitars almost battling each other for dominance throughout the song. 

Unrecognisable – You’ve got to love a song that sums up not only the album but perhaps an entire life lived. “Never give up, never shut up….” The lyrics have a very personal message and are wonderfully delivered. The orchestration near the end of the song is so poignant but uplifting at the same time and the guitars compliment right through to the incredible pianoforte which plays out the final 20seconds leaving me feeling oddly satisfied with a twist of melancholy.

Right through the album, the balance between the orchestral arrangements of arranged by Sarah Brandwood-Spencer and the guitar work of Steve Trafford and Jason Brown are sublime. Put this together with the rock-solid drums of Paul Hanley and the bass of Steve Hanley, Brix is the veritable icing on the cake! The lyrics are direct and although personal at times, they are identifiable and lure you in as you identify with the experiences and changes in life and personal circumstances many of us have been through.

Brix and The Extricated will be touring;

25th Oct – Night People, Manchester

26th Oct – Dingwalls, London

27th Oct – Thekla, Bristol

3rd Nov – The Cookie, Leicester

4th Nov – Esquires, Bedford

10th Nov – The Adelphi, Hull

11th Nov – The Loft Arts Club, Liverpool

16th Nov – The Bullingdon (the Bully), Oxford

17th/18th – Shiiine On Weekend, Butlins Minehead

25th Nov – Arts Centre, Norwich

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