Friday, 12 June 2015

Brix And The Extricated, at the 100 Club, 29th May 2015

Brix was a pivotal part of many of The Fall's best creative periods. The thrill of her returning to music, with intentions to publish an autobiography, is still reverberating. A moot point for some, but for me this club gig with other former Fall members outstrips anything the Mark E Smith group have done in a decade. While Kicker Conspiracy, CREEP, Hit The North, Dr Faustus, LA, Big New Prinz, Totally Wired, Cruisers Creek are songs that wouldn't fill up a usual Fall setlist nowadays, they are played resoundingly powerfully tonight – and are all we could wish for and more. It's not the hankering for the old, but hearing these songs fronted by the almighty and wonderful Brix in such a commanding manner.

Whilst Brix is clearly reliving the glory of 80s and 90s Fall, and must have a lot of great memories, she is also buoyant about the present moment, being frontwoman, innovating a cracking set of songs. This is a new and absorbing experience. Certain Fall fans faithful to Mark E Smith as centrifugal overlord are wrongly wary. Questioning Brix's credentials is not an option: she has nothing to prove. Hearing this batch of songs and many more from those years, emphasises her imagination, ideas, contributions through several crucial epochs of The Fall. In the interim between her departure from the MES-led Fall and this current venture, Brix had a pop career – Adult Net, a sunny sounding rock act with gentle, lovely vocals that represent a different side of her – now she's here playing her favourite old Fall songs, and she's singing with more fierce force and power than Mark E Smith. Her voice is deep and dark. The intent in her delivery is full of sure-fire strength. Wilful ignorance or gendered contempt from a certain kind of Fall fan is not to be tolerated. Pining for MES ('it's not The Fall without Mark!') is tiresome. How about instead opening your ears and mind to a positive alternative from someone who was equally a key player in the finest Fall achievements? Mark E Smith is a great, but it must be admitted that the live shows have become poor: continual celebration of frothy, drunk mutterings as spectacle becomes hollow and sad (Mark can be sharper, and all the better for it).

Brix's confidence and control show her seriousness of purpose. With the celebrated Hanley brothers on bass and drums, and Fall Heads Roll era Steve Trafford on guitar, this is no tribute: this is still the music of legend very much alive. Lay of the Land is a surprise highlight of the set, and that classic, crunching, tight, rhythmic sound so definitive of early Fall kicks up a storm. Likewise, 2 X 4 is a surprise and heavyweight addition. We are spoilt with Hit the North and Mr Pharmacist - and Big New Prinz, possibly Brix's defining moment (from The Fall's most overlooked LP, I Am Kurious Oranj), is the perfect closer to a compelling gig. Brix shouting the lyric: 'He is not appreciated!' seems at odds and feels poignant (she must be appreciated!). This isn't about nostalgia because the new songs sound beyond worthy in comparison, and the old stuff has been enlivened anew. If Brix and The Extricated are to be a long-term concern, they threaten to surpass current Fall standards by a long shot. These are invigorating times.


U.S. 80s-90s
Feeling Numb
Leave the Capitol
2 X 4
(a new song)
Cruiser's Creek
(2 new songs)
Hotel Bloedel
Dead Beat Descendant
Totally Wired
Lay of the Land
Hit the North
Mr Pharmacist
Big New Prinz