Time has a habit of focussing the mind as one gets older. Second chances don’t necessarily always come around.
Just a year after the release of Part 2, Brix and the guys were back again with Breaking State. It’s a more focussed effort, direct with a truer voice. The Fall covers, the re-versions have gone. This is all original material.
After a double whammy of gigs in the Capital in the autumn of 2017, a Rough Trade in-store and Hackney’s Oslo, the band have headed up west to the Borderline. The geographic challenges of Brix being in London and the rest of the band being spread around the county look to be bridged. Songs are getting written quickly. Albums are laid down in short order. Breaking State was released at the tail end of last year and the next record is already on the way to being written and recorded.
There’s a palpable sense of urgency about the band, a sense that they mean business and aren’t going to be hanging around. The Borderline gig was very loud, energetic and dynamic. The band are clearly comfortable in their own skins, Brix, Jason and Steve striking poses a-gogo whilst Steve Hanley is the anchor, an Easter Island head of a bass player. Paul Hanley has taken a breather on drums and I have to confess that whilst I haven’t caught his replacement’s name but he provided a beast of a backbeat.
Brix remains a ball of primal energy. Steve Trafford leads her on stage for the darkness of Alaska which she performs blindfolded. She punches, she ducks, she weaves, she faces up to her bandmates – she’s a compelling electrifying presence.
The new material is punchy, bang on the nose. Prime Numbers brings to mind That Petrol Emotion, a Derry connection between Jason and the guys who are gearing up to record a second Everlasting Yeah album (a shout out to Raymond Gorman for his company and the tickets). Going Strong is a head rush, melodic and exciting. For a band that isn’t in the first flush of youth, there’s a punkish garage energy that stays just the right side of reckless.
We got a few choice Fall cuts. Are these facsimiles of the originals? Of course, they aren’t. The Fall had a habit of ditching material relatively quickly after it had been released. Over-familiarity wasn’t an issue. Songs were laid to rest rarely to be revisited, one of the beauties of the Fall’s singular approach. So what we are hearing is old material sung with a different voice (Brix rather than MES) and with the old vigour. The Fall covers are in the minority and I’ll settle for that. This is the Extricated ploughing their own furrow with some reinterpretations of their back catalogue and it makes for a bloody good night out.
The band were joined by some old friends for a couple of songs. A seemingly well refreshed Brian Molko of Placebo appropriately accompanied Brix for the obligatory Totally Wired. This was a prelude to a stellar bass battle between Stephen Hanley and My Bloody Valentine’s Debbie Googe on a lengthy stomping Big New Prinz to close the set.
Kudos to Brix for returning to the stage to specifically thank the audience and offer up the band to chat, sign and be available for selfies post gig. They clearly know the importance of the network of fans and friends to their ability to create, record and tour. One wishes that other bands would have a similarly open and reciprocal relationship with their audience. It would pay dividends in this era when purely selling physical product is insufficient to sustain a long term career. This isn’t some ruse to extract money from merch to pay for the next Caribbean holiday home. This is what puts food on the table for these skilled, experienced and talented musicians.
Brix and the Extricated continue to be a vital model of avoiding a rote tribute route to longevity.
I’m already looking forward to that third LP.
Brilliant review. Excellent stuff Stu