Brix Smith

Neurotica

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Nearly 20 years after Brix Smith left the Fall, bringing to a close its most pop-oriented and commercially successful phase, and 18 years after the release of the sole full-length album by her '60s-obsessed jangle pop combo the Adult Net, she makes an unexpected return to music with her first solo album, Neurotica. Written, performed, and recorded in collaboration with British producer Dare Mason (Cinerama, Placebo, etc.) and former Church guitarist Marty Willson-Piper, Neurotica is a pleasant but relentlessly polite guitar pop record that lacks the compelling hooks of the best Adult Net songs and the passionate energy of Smith's tenure with the Fall. Even the best songs, the Garbage-like alt-rocker "Orangina" and the poppier "Little Wounds," suffer from Smith's dispassionate vocals and obscure, seemingly nonsensical lyrics. (For example, "Orangina" doesn't seem to be using the European soft drink as any kind of metaphor: she really is just singing about a blend of orange juice and club soda.) Too many of the other songs are merely agreeable bits of jangly guitars and Smith's high-register deadpan vocals, with all the structural heft and substance of meringue. It's nice to have Brix Smith back, but Neurotica is a disappointingly tame and half-hearted return.