In the 1980’s, music had already shifted gears away from punk with New Wave, an energetic, stripped down and edgy sound that brought synthesizers upfront in the arrangement. Instead of ripped t-shirts and grime, New Wave was fashionable and cleaned-up, sort of like the 1950’s and 1960’s had a head-on collision.
The Fixx are now forty years old and counting. Five English lads who scored their first hits with the release of the Shuttered Room album in 1982, as MTV was bouncing off satellites into living rooms. “Stand or Fall” and “Red Skies at Night” were to the first two singles.
The album was produced by Rupert Hine who would work with Tina Turner, Howard Jones, Bob Geldof, Thompson Twins, Stevie Nicks, Chris de Burgh, Suzanne Vega, Rush and others as one of the top producers of the era.
Reach the Beach (1983) showed the group’s quick ascent as it cracked the Top Ten Billboard Chart and three of the group’s most enduring songs, “Saved By Zero” (a number four Billboard hit), “One Thing Leads to Another” and “Reach the Beach.” “Saved By Zero” is used in television commercials today, as the 80’s generation is nearing retirement.
The strength of the band’s sound revolves around keyboardist Rupert Greenall and guitarist Jamie West-Oram, and Cy Curnin’s big, expressive vocals. Their effect-heavy riffs add atmosphere and beats to create a unique sound among bands of the era. West-Oram is the best guitarist you’ve never heard of, a master of effects and economic riffs, he is just as good as U2’s The Edge.
Next up was Phantoms (1984), an album even stronger than Reach the Beach. “Are We Ourselves” was the top single from the album (Billboard #15), but there were several other gems just as good. “Sunshine in the Shade.” “I Will,” “Less Cities, More Moving People,” “Woman on a Train,” and “Question” show depth and originality. If you want an introduction to a Fixx album, start here.
Walkabout (1986) followed, two years later. The album was not as strong as the previous two, but offered “Secret Separation” and “Built for the Future.”
React (1987) was the group’s live album, augmented by three new tracks. The group changed producers, using Hugh Padgham, another very popular producer of the era. Padgham would work with Genesis, Phil Collins, Police, Sting, XTC, The Human League, David Bowie and others. The album failed to crack the Billboard Top 100 chart and their single “Don’t Be Scared” stalled at number 32.
Calm Animals (1988) re-energized the Fixx and their audience. Again changing producers, the album reached number 72 on the chart and produced their strongest single in years, “Driven Out.”
Beyond the 1980’s.
Their next album, Ink, wouldn’t arrive until 1991. A singled, “How Much is Enough” would make the Top 40, but the album would not crack the Top 100. Elemental (1998) would see Dan Brown, their longtime bass player depart, and another producer change. Their contract with MCA Records had ended and they would be on smaller labels the rest of the way. 1011 Woodland (1999) was mostly a collection of re-recorded songs.
Want That Life (2003) was a return to new material. The Fixx would not track any radio play of new singles but the band gained their second wind and the songs on Want That Life were vibrant with their familiar, but new take on their sound.
Beautiful Friction (2009) welcomed back longtime bassist Dan Brown. The Fixx offered no new magic, but were not a nostalgia band either. The strength of the band was always the ability to play their songs live without losing elements of their songs. The Fixx have a large and loyal following who pack their shows.
In 2008, I saw The Fixx in concert, it was a spur of the moment concert, as they had an open date and a venue an open Monday night. With minimal notice, the band played with simple lighting and no frills. There were perhaps a couple of hundred people, if that many, but happy, joyous fans. Lead singer Cy Curnin was suffering the flu but didn’t miss a beat. Afterwards, the other band members chatted up with the fans. What a night!
The Twenty-fifth Anniversary Anthology is a great collection of hits, live tracks and alternative versions. You get fresh takes on familiar songs. For the more interested fan this is an essential collection.
Fans have been waiting several years for the possibility of a new collection of songs. While The Fixx plays the oldies cruises and festivals, they refuse to stop evolving and creating new music.