I didn’t know Brix and co. existed before an all day event at Rock City a year or two ago, I’ve been grabbing hold of news and new songs ever since. J&MC I got introduced to by way of a Psychocandy record being leant to me by a friend in a red Paddington Bear duffle coat in a south Wales college clique of uber-cool PVC musicfreaks. I caught the Mary Chain last at Latitude just gone where a broken effects pedal reduced their set to half hour. Needless to say I jumped at the chance to review these two bands.
Brix Smith & the Extricated
After perching myself at the top of the stairs with just enough light to write out some notes, Smith’s Extricated came out to a not-yet-full room. Bullet-clean simple drums started hammering out and all attention turned to the source of attack. After half minute or less Brix comes onto stage, hood up and prepped like a glitterball boxer delivering first punch with ‘Something To Loose’.
Brix Smith & the Extricated are snotty aggression wrapped up in straight to the point. ‘I was clean / yesterday / by tomorrow I’ll be filthy’. The beauty is simplicity, conviction and repetition. There’s no fat to trim off the song or the set, every song comes at the speed of the last well-owned riff. All brought into life by the rhythm machine of the band right behind her.
Barely a breath and ‘Feeling Numb’ follows next. I’ve known this song, along with others in the set, since I became as strangely entangled in The Fall as any other Fall fan. Here it has urgency, updated re-vigoured, divorced from the trufflehunting snuffling vocals that shaped the song as I knew it. Instead there’s a glam-sheek spit-shine surrounded by stabbing guitars in off-clean distortion. It’s garage, glam, punk, its U.S. 80s-90s and there’s no need to date it.
I write out a blow by blow song by song account but why add fat to the band that have none. Brix Smith and co. grow in animation, X-Ray Spex vocal squeals get thrown in among the obvious name checks of Hole/ Blondie/Garbage/ etc. and the set careers through 11 songs of familiar and unfamiliar territories. There’s a pointed urgency and pleasure through all; everysound crisp, everypart tight. ‘Damned For Eternity’ is as sharp as it needs to be to drive home its damage. I get lost in ‘L.A.’s lysergic lounge soundtrack to a party never held in a half-stocked west-coast record store basement and ‘Totally Wired’ ends the set with the match that lit the fuse that began it.
You could argue against the naive simplicity of some parts of some songs. I argue why complicate a good thing.
Aaaaand rest. Dum-dum’s opposites are coming up next.
The Jesus and Mary Chain
There’s a strange relation in opening songs. If Brix was clean yesterday and filthy by tomorrow, J&MC’s ‘Amputation’ sings ‘kiss today/but fuck tomorrow’. It seems both have the need to be clean and dirty.
Set to a Phil Spector wall of distorted noise ‘Amputation’ hides its vaguely sketched sweetness among swirls of howls, effects, smoke and lights. ‘Happy When It Rains’ follows without a thought for the jump through the decades and breaks free from its Darklands production – pumped up with ground churning guitars that etch out a space from the whirlwind of sound. Close your eyes and the smooth almost-croon is exactly the same as any J&MC record you’ve ever heard no matter how old.
A slick slide into Automatic era ‘Head On’ and the noise and the chugs that have cemented their places meet with a driving force that propels the song on through its galvanising angst-ridden choruses; just as urgent sounding now as they ever were. There’s a the first pause and break for applause and it came thick and fast.
Next up it’s a jump back to now – shoot forwards in time to their latest release and it’s my favourite track of new album. Yes it’s got signature mountain-crash soundscapes played live, but sitting on top of ‘Always Sad’ is an 80s Thunders/Palladin cover of 50s boy/girl romance. This is my what Mary Chain do best; hide a clear and unashamedly pop sensibility in a setting that half downs it out. Sometimes you pluck out the sweetness with tweesers… sometimes you get lost in the aggressive haze.
They move through the eras, fan favourites and not, show off scope and texture, stretch out discordance and piledrive in turn. The mix of padded out shoegaze, crystal clear clatter and touches of gothic Americana show off the links forwards and backwards from Stooges to BRMC and Raveonettes (name a few). There were times when my drink had those Jurassic Park dinosaur footprint rings coming out from the centre.
16 songs and two encores keep the audience glued and my pen in view, occasionally punctuated by a surprisingly soft and unassuming voice that speaks between songs to listeners or sound techs. Who isn’t thrilled to hear ‘Just Like Honey’ and why wouldn’t you set off last encore with ‘Sidewalking’?
It’s all travelled well through ages and years, any song from either band could have landed tomorrow. But fuck tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll be deaf.
The Jesus & Mary Chain played Rock City with support from Brix & the Extricated on Sunday, October 1st.