Archive for Brix Smith

How “Black Rainbow Sound” by Menace Beach Became The Album That Stole Our September

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2018 by johnbuckley100


Tulip Frenzy has been derelict in its duty to curate our readers’ listening pleasure.  You would have to go all the way back to June 10th to find the last batch of albums deemed worthy of your ear buds.  (And a pretty good batch that was: Courtney Barnett, Parquet Courts, Wand and the Brian Jonestown Massacre.)

It’s not like the rest of the summer had no good music. Though as you might see in the posts below, the editorial team was set loose upon the Mountain West with cameras and few assignments.

Still, if we were all to have turned in our notes from a summer of listening, we would have said that Oh Sees’ Smote Reverser had some incredible moments, though its thunder made us yearn for some of John Dwyer’s lighter-hearted fare; that the double-drum prog’n’metal core of this new version of the band is not, four albums in, as much fun as the prior incarnations under the Thee Oh Sees rubric.  We might have said that White Denim’s Performance has some of the catchiest songs, and best performances, James Petralli and Steve Terebecki have ever caught on a hard drive, but in the end, it’s just a tad bit too close to Steely Dan territory to claim our unalloyed affection. Unquestionably we’d have given a shout out to old friend and T. Frenzy interviewee Kelley Stoltz, whose Natural Causes is lovely, but a bit of a comedown from last year’s #1 Tulip Frenzy Top Ten List entry Que Aura.  And we haven’t even gotten to great new music, just now emerging, from Alejandro Escovedo, Spiritualized and Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe.

If you want to blame any one thing for why we’ve failed our readers, blame Menace Beach.  Right, until this summer we hadn’t heard of them either.

Menace Beach’s Black Rainbow Sound is the  album that has consumed our September, living in our dreams, commanding us to play it on our commute, while working out at the gym, even sitting and reading.  It is pure pop confection whipped up by two pastry chefs from Leeds which, once tasted, induces such pleasure, all other dishes are foresworn until you’ve had your fill.

Bear with us as we try a comparison which while imperfect, gets us as close to the matter as we can get.  We have previously described our love for the New Pornographers as an anomaly.  “Ordinarily, we treasure the analog sound of Fender guitars played by punk bands and The New Ps feature keyboard-driven synthetic sounds polished to a high gloss.”

Menace Beach and the New Pornographers do have some analogous features.  Ryan Needham and Liza Violet trade lead vocal duties the way Carl Newman and Neko Case do, and on Black Rainbow Sound, synths dominate guitars.  Like the New Ps, Menace Beach now offer “keyboard-driven synthetic sounds polished to a high gloss.”  They also offer, song by song, more hooks than a boat full of weekend fisherman setting out into the Atlantic chop.

How a band that started out two albums ago sounding like the Breeders, and which on Black Rainbow Sound deliberately invoke Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Young Marble Giants could push aside so much good music to lasso our cerebral cortex has us marveling, two weeks in.  We’re captives.  They got us.0013616929_10

We first heard of Menace Beach via Brix Smith’s Twitter feed, and in fact, the very first sound on the record is Brix’ guitar, so recognizable from her work with the greatest period of The Fall and her own Brix & The Extricated.  But it’s a tease, a false front, for soon after the sonic propulsion of the band’s new synth sound kicks in and gets the heart racing.  It’s like the best workout, where your heart rate soars at the beginning and never dips until approx. 38 minutes later you are exhausted and exalted.

We’d like to have taken time to tell you about all the great music that’s out there right now.  And yeah, we’ll get to Alejandro’s opus and a full review of Tess and Anton’s amazing second record when the whole thing comes out.  For now, ponder for a moment what the juxtaposition of the words “menace” and “beach” might add up to musically; grok on the parallel difference between “black” and “rainbow.”  Download this album, and be prepared to lose the rest of September in musical ecstasy.


The Fall’s Great Brix Smith Has A Surprising Second Act

Posted in Music with tags , , , on September 19, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Long before The Dandy Warhols would yearn for “A Girl As Cool As Kim Deal,” there was Brix Smith.  In the entire, 35+-year run of The Fall, by far the best period were those years — 1983-1989 — when Brix Smith played lead guitar and sang in her husband Mark E. Smith’s band.

And there you kind of have it, right?  The two best bands from the 1980s, The Fall and The Pixies, both represented by iconic women.  Brix was pretty, sexy, competent on guitar, and when she was in the band, the Fall were amazing.  The Wonderful and Frightening World Of The Fall was the high point, for us at least, of mid-’80s music, though we’d love to have a barroom debate over whether it was better than The Nation’s Saving Grace and Bend Sinister, which followed it.  Brix was the driver of those great riffs, from “Cruisers Creek” to “L.A.”, but she also sang just enough that the strange, barking, white rapper’s vocals that erupted from her husband somehow went down a little easier.  And when she left the band, both our attention and the band’s performance drifted.

And now The New York Times has done a profile of Brix, who these days is a fashion star in London.  Who knew?  And who knew, actually, that she was a 19-year old Bennington girl, there concurrently with Jonathan Lethem, when she foisted a cassette of her band in Mark E. Smith’s hands — we can see his buzzard’s eye being raised as a pretty young American college girl comes on to Smith, who even then was a creepy misanthrope — and a short time later found herself in the lineup of the premier punk band of its day.

It’s a great piece, this profile on Brix, and a great story.  Even greater was the music, and that she now seems like a character out of Ab Fab is just plain funny.  So yeah, before rockers wanted to date a girl as cool as Kim Deal, there was Brix Smith.  And we’re glad she’s back, and doing well, and happy for the memories of when she was an integral part of the mid-’80s best band working.

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