the shelves of record stores is a little like counting the rings
of a tree, or strolling through a mausoleum, viewing the countless
fallen artists and bands, dead due to anything from a rock 'n
roll lifestyle to a change in musical fads. Those artists who
had the ingenuity and perseverance to survive whatever "movement"
first brought them attention have borne fruit, adding ring after
ring in their tree trunk. Those that died young are forever embalmed,
R.I.P. The Fixx, happily, are still adding rings to their already
The Fixx, originally based in London, were first introduced to
a mass audience in 1982, with their debut album, Shuttered Room.
A collection of their best work to that point, it stood in stark
contrast to most of the other New Wave albums of the time, with
its tight musicianship and dark political overtones. Though the
band held to some tenets of the New Wave, such as short songs
devoid of solos and no fear of synthesizers and cavernous soundscapes,
their cohesiveness as a rock band was made credible by their live
performances. Despite the album not receiving a full marketing
push in the U.S., the videos for "Stand or Fall" and
"Red Skies" were played heavily by MTV (then in its
infancy) and became anthems for yet another generation fed up
with the cold war. Later in the year The Fixx performed on Long
Island for the King Biscuit Flower Hour. The concert, recently
made available on cd, served as a showcase for their special brand
of dynamic minimalism.
long after, in 1983, Reach the Beach was released and immediately
took off in the U.S., led by its catchy single, "One Thing
Leads to Another," and later "Saved by Zero." No
sophomore slump, the album was a logical growth from their first
effort, showcasing singer Cy Curnin's unorthodox vocals and Jamie
West-Oram's rhythm-driven guitar against the tight rhythm section
of Adam Woods (drums) and Alfie Agius (bass; would later be replaced
by Dan K. Brown,) all complemented by the synthesizer stylings
of Rupert Greenall. The album cemented their style, taking the
tired art-rock credo of dark theatrical soundscapes and filtering
it through their own unique sensibilities. Generous airplay and
a full U.S. tour garnered the band a large following.
was released in 1984, and still seems to be the favorite of the
band and many of its fans. Packed with twelve songs from sessions
that also spawned several fan favorite out-takes and the single
"Deeper and Deeper" from the Streets of Fire soundtrack,
this album found the band in an especially productive mode, carrying
them across a wider range of styles than on their previous albums.
Still undeniably Fixx, the songs on this album seem a little less
angry, more tempered with maturity and diverse in its style. Melody
takes more prominence on this record, and several songs, particularly
"I Will" and "Wish," are downright soulful.
"Are We Ourselves" and "Sunshine in the Shade"
were released as singles, and while the album's sales were by
all means respectable, the band's label, MCA, had set unrealistic
expectations for sales after the phenomenal success of their previous
effort. Thus began troubles with record labels.
band's next effort, Walkabout, arrived in 1986. Perhaps the most
spiritual of Fixx albums, this work saw more of Curnin's soulful
melody, and West-Oram's guitar took on a less frenetic and more
droning, hypnotic quality, shared by Greenall's relaxed keyboards.
The downshift in tempo led to a more introspective, contemplative
mode of listening, particularly for "Treasure It," and
"Camphor." "Secret Separation," unique in
that the lyrics were not written by Curnin but by Jeannette Obstoj,
a friend of the band, is an unabashed love song, unusual for the
band, but its poetic lyrics keep it from degenerating into the
trite kind of love song the band has steadfastly avoided. Throughout
the album, the band's usual stark warnings were unusually well
balanced with a new optimism, a sense of hope. This was most evident
to the lucky listeners who happened to buy one of the compact
disc versions that had a hidden track at the end, the heartfelt
plea "Do What You Can." While "Secret Separation"
received a good deal of airplay and the album sold well, as with
Phantoms, MCA was unhappy with its modest sales.
released in 1987, was the band's last effort for MCA. Consisting
of three new songs--each a solid effort--and a collection of live
versions of their best-known singles, this album came off as a
last-ditch effort to settle contractual obligations before moving
on to a new label.
signed The Fixx in short order, and the result was Calm Animals
in 1988. This album found the band picking up the tempo again,
with West-Oram's guitar more prominent in the mix and Woods and
Brown taking a more aggressive, driving, and perhaps dance-influenced
approach overall. "Driven Out" received a good deal
of airplay, and "Precious Stone" (with lyrics by Woods,
a.k.a. Madman) was also released. The band's songwriting and arrangements
were as accomplished as ever, but in retrospect the album seems
a little strained, as though some of its songs were force-fitted
into a rough, edgy style not quite suited to them. Apparently,
RCA also refused to take a realistic approach to marketing the
band, as this was The Fixx's only effort for the label.
next album would not come until 1991, after signing with Impact,
an imprint of MCA. It was the subversively titled Ink, featuring
portraits of the band done up in corporate attire. The album was
a schizophrenic product, as a result of the label pairing up the
band with songwriters for the first (and last) time. Some of the
songs were highly effective extensions of unfettered Fixx, such
as "Shut it Out," "Yesterday, Today," and
"One Jungle." Others succumbed to the influence of outside
songwriters, such as "Falling in Love.," and "Crucified."
And while these may be entirely listenable, to the die-hard fans
these were sticks in the spokes, corporate attempts at pimping
The Fixx to the pop charts. Not surprisingly, the band seems to
have retained a bad taste from the Ink sessions to this day. "How
Much is Enough" garnered some airplay. This was their only
effort for Impact.
no record label realized The Fixx had made a niche for themselves
as a rock band with a steady following is beyond reckoning. Instead
of coming up with an adequate marketing plan in the vein of bands
like Rush, executives kept trying to push The Fixx as a mega-selling
arena pop band, clearly a misguided idea. It would be several
years on hiatus before the members of the band ultimately decided
their hearts had been in the right place after all. But this time,
they were determined to make their music on their own terms.
spending some time writing and recording new music, the band released
a limited issue demo cd in 1997, Happy Landings, most of the songs
on which eventually appeared on the album Elemental in 1998, from
CMC International. The band had always carried a progressive attitude
into the recording of each album, growing a little each time,
and their time off before the recording of this album apparently
meant more growth than usual. Not quite like any other Fixx recording,
Elemental finds them older, wiser, but with more power and incisiveness
than ever before. The band stripped down in some ways, utilizing
more acoustical equipment and less echo than usual, bringing the
band in from their usual sonic distance and placing them in your
living room, by turns more intimate and more threatening. "Going
Without" and "Happy Landings" speak as an estranged
friend welcomed back from exile, while "Fatal Shore"
and "We Once Held Hands" whisper as a societal subconscious
come to remind of the menacing undercurrents that still flow.
For The Fixx, maturity hasn't meant a staleness or nostalgia as
it has for so many other artists. Instead, maturity has bestowed
a mastery of all the best elements of their work, and allowed
them to expand and grow further. Indeed, the best may be yet to
fine companion piece was released in 1999, the two-cd set 1011
Woodland, named for the studio in which it was recorded. A re-recording
of many of the band's favorite songs, at first glance it would
appear to be a quick cash-in. However, The Fixx put forth an earnest
effort in re-working the songs in an even more stripped down,
intimate style than was used on Elemental. Each of the songs is
cast in a new light, in some cases making the songs finally come
together, as in "Precious Stone" and "Still Around,"
both of which make their previous versions pale in comparison.
"Driven Out" is given more of a gritty folk-rock feel,
"I Will" takes on a jaded and lazy lounge feel, and
even their very first single, "Lost Planes," appears
in a new and more subtle form. At the end of second cd are three
concert recordings made on the Elemental tour, and though none
are of the highest sonic quality, all three are infectious in
their enthusiasm and are sparkling examples of the energy and
commitment still felt by the band.
Courtesy The Fixx