Dave Jennings, "Adult Net: California Dreaming"

Melody Maker, ??date??


SO THIS IS HOW THE BUSY GIRL BUYS beauty. I glimpse Brix Smith for the first time over a huge two-tier box of cosmetics -- enough paints and pencils to turn a human face into any imaginable kind of abstract art. A woman who earns her living by such magic is busy pecking the kaleidoscopic contents away, having prepared Brix for her confrontation with Phil Nicholls' probing lenses. This, I learn, is Brix's favourite cosmetic expert, out of the many she's tried. I wonder quietly what Michelle Shocked would think of it all.

Somehow, it all seems entirely apt. The Adult Net's singles have been glossy, smooth, with neatly layered harmonies and sweet melodies over the occasional spool of barbed guitar. In drastic contrast to the work of The Fall, Brix's day job, The Adult Net seems entirely unblemished -- virtually free from emotional scar tissue. It's either a thing of artificial loveliness, or the sincere work of someone who's had a remarkably painless life. I'd guess the latter.

Brix is The Adult Net, working with a pool of collaborators that currently includes former Smith and current Morrissey guitar-person Craig Gannon.

"I'm not a dictator who says, 'You work for me and no one else'," explains Ms Smith. "I think it's important to let people be free to create their own art in whatever way they want, so that when they do come back to work with you -- if they want to -- they're more enriched and fulfilled than they were. And if something else comes up, they want go to Tibet or something, that's fine by me. I always believe things happen for reasons."

On the one occasion to date that The Adult Net has been draped over a stage, the band also included Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce. "I had to put together a live band to show Geffen Records that I could play live. It was just after The Smiths had broken up, and I heard that Mike Joyce was open to things. He said he was totally into it, and said, 'Let's get Andy in'. Then we decided to get another guitarist in, and they said Craig (Gannon) was cool.

"I was giving myself a test by doing it. Someone came in and said, 'It's totally sold out, tickets are going outside for L22, this record company and that paper are here ...' I was practically catatonic I was so nervous. So I did the best that I could, and the next day Phonogram started ringing."

TO date, though, the commercial success that was confidently anticipated, has failed to materialise. "But this is a success in my heart already," says Brix defiantly. "From the beginning, I wanted to write songs that were completely natural and real to me. I never sit down and say, 'I'm going to write a song about love', or 'I'm going to write a song about homosexuality' or whatever -- I just let it come out."

The Fall seemed to get a lot poppier after you joined. Would you claim the credit for that?

"Yeah!" She giggles nervously. "I feel I just brought out what was needed. I wasn't calculating in any way -- I just did what come naturally to me, and fitted in where I could. When I came in it was like an already-painted canvas, so I just added light and shadow where I could. I didn't force it in any way. I was asked to do what I did."

HAVING made a permanent Atlantic crossing, what do you think are the biggest differences between home and here?

"Sometimes I sense a lot of anti-American feeling, and I can understand that," she says with a smile. "You can always see in other Americans what's in yourself, and think, 'Jesus, I hope I'm not like that!'

"But I don't think I'm the sort of American who gets on British people's nerves, because I've lived here long enough to know how to behave. I'm not like some screaming American on the tube going please stop at Lie-chester Square!' But I'm not anti- American. I love all people."

[missing text]...try to. Of course you can't. I try and keep an open mind.

"WHEN I was a teenager," she says, casting that open mind back a few years, "there were certain songs that would take my mind off my troubles, any things that I could relate to that would make me think 'well put', or 'isn't that beautiful', or whatever. And I hope people will get that feeling from my stuff."

Presumably, the songs in the young Brix's heart included The Grassroots' "Where Were You", a large US hit that never made the Transatlantic transition. A tart lemon-meringue singalong, it's the suitably summery new single. An album, to be titled "The Honey Tangle" will follow, along with the first Adult Net tour. Though it'll be the first to reach the shops, "The Honey Tangle" -- named after a racehorse Brix saw on TV -- is in fact the second Net LP. The first, which was to have been named "Spin This Web", was recorded over two years ago, but scrapped when it failed to meet Ms Smith's self-imposed standards.

THE new material, filled with shimmering harmonies, shows Brix's Californian roots.

"There's a Beach Boys' influence, definitely," she concurs. "It was quite a challenge to try to get the essence of that. But then, I think my music stems from the same place as theirs did, both geographically and spiritually. It's something I have inside me just from growing up in LA.

"There comes a point where you just say, 'The whole world is open to me! I can do anything I want to, I can learn anything I want, I can have, I can error, the sun is beautiful, the sky is gorgeous crystal blue, the sea is silver.' You just stand and look around and say, 'Life is wonderful!' I have those feelings to this day!" Are you trying to broadcast that euphoria via The Adult Net?

"I think I have!"