With four former members of The Fall constituting four-fifths of Brix and the Extricated, comparisons with the post-punk band which spanned four decades until the death of frontman Mark E Smith this year, are inevitable. Their first album, Part 2, included some Fall songs, but Breaking State, the Extricated’s second, puts some clear water between them.
And that water is crystal blue, Malibu-warmed Pacific Ocean. The heavy, driving rhythms will be familiar to Fall fans, as former band members Paul and Steve Hanley, on drums and bass, power the heart of each track. They’re reunited with guitarist Steve Trafford and songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Brix Smith Start and guitarist Jason Brown makes up the team.
There is the heavy cadence and strong riffs you might expect, but for me, this album is primarily about melody. There’s a distinct sense of a song-writing heritage with undertones of Blondie, the Beach Boys and David Bowie. Every song is perfectly crafted with a catchy hook which stays with you. I defy anyone not to be singing along to any of these tunes after a first listen.
Breaking State charts a journey; the scratchy, discordant, Velvet Underground-esque violins on the dark opener Alaska, become a whole soaring string section on American Skies. There’s a narrative of sorrow, anger, fragility and recovery running through the whole album ending in glorious resolution on final track Unrecognisable. This is I Will Survive for the intelligent rock n roll chick.
Brix’s vocal comes into its own here with the opportunity to showcase a broader range of her voice. Variously moving between a vulnerable sotto voce to a snarling rasp and a euphoric roar, every word is perfectly enunciated, reflecting the clarity of thought and vision in the lyrics.
This whole album crackles with energy and vitality. There are no fillers here; every track on Breaking State has a sophisticated arrangement and tells a story. Brix Smith Start described the band’s music to me as, ‘Like The Fall, but with sunshine.’
I suggest you put the roof down on the convertible, press play and enjoy the ride.