"Brixton is God"
The school kid scrawling it on the wall of the boys’ room all those years ago had it right.
If they’re reading this, well maybe they’d be proud of the longevity of their proclamation. Because Brix Smith is still a rock god. She’s back amongst us with her first solo album – yeah, right, hard to believe! – called ‘Valley Of The Dolls’. A nod to a passion for Russ Meyer films, perhaps.
Co-written and produced by Youth, it’s an honest and vulnerable storybook told through her inimitable hook-laden surf-grunge lens that we first saw with the underrated The Adult Net.
It’s magnificent and addictive.
And it gets better and better with each listen.
Opener ‘Livin Thru My Despair’ is a full on grunge banger powered by Brix’s riffs and emotive chord progressions. This is no despair, though. Catharsis maybe, but it’s raw reality. It feels imperious and resolute with a delicious middle eight as she catalogues the unspoken desolation of that fabled, life changing Manchester experience.
‘Fast Net’ is so catchy it’s unfair. Another middle eight to die for that gloriously bridges the power chords.
Brix’s trademark major/minor chord progressions sweep through ‘Aphrodite’. The pure California chorus and the subtle Stupid Girl synth has the hands of those festival crowds in the air.
‘California Smile’ is a picture perfect day of that glistening Pacific Ocean. Or is it? Bam. Brix sweeps away the luscious to reveal the underbelly. Don’t always believe what you see, it’s probably superficiality. This is as strong as fuck.
‘Changing’. The sloweeeeee! An evocative Crystals/Velvets tambourine here, a subtle orchestral accompaniment there, gigantic angst laden power chords follow the gloriously melancholic melodies. A song for making difficult choices, to pull off the mask, face who we really are, it recalls a 1960’s shifting from early morning dreamy haze to the insistent sunset and the underbelly of a reality that we might not want to – but must – face.
‘Black Rainbow Sky’ crosses a pulsing 60’s surf with Brix’s Cali spoken word rhymes over tight chugging riffs. Live fast and die.
‘Say I’m Ur No.1’ is the Hey Hey Hey Hey surf pop classic. A modern-day ‘Denis’ with Destri-style synth harmonies. Is there anything better?
‘Valley Grl’ pays homage to where she grew up. Another punch the air chorus with growling riffs
‘All My Luv’ – A nod to the Zep’s ‘The Ocean’ riff with staccato vocals that precedes full on psychedelia and wigging the shred out.
‘Black Butterfly’ is a 7 minute cinematic closer that sweeps across the windswept plains from chrysalis to redemption – “take me out of this reality, take me from this place of pain”.
The mask’s padlock has been conquered.
Stand tall, spread your arms. It’s the rise and rise of Brix.
Out now on Grit Over Glamour
Photo Credit – Paul Scala