The Fixx Beautiful Friction Cover Art

Album Review: The Fixx, “Beautiful Friction”

Those who only remember the Fixx for their ‘80s hits will be pleasantly surprised by their latest release, Beautiful Friction. The album moves away from the musical pop hooks such as what Jamie West-Oram was able to create in songs like “Saved by Zero,” “One Thing Leads to Another,” or “Red Skies at Night” toward a new maturity that layers the guitars in a less angular way. The songs are no less political than they were during the Fixx’s heyday, but they are executed in a way that forgoes the pressure to have a hit in favor of greater depth.The lead single, “Anyone Else,” is pure anthem in musical style but more oblique in lyrical substance.  But what it lacks in a overt message is patently clear in the video.

“Just Before Dawn” is a wonderfully neo-psychedelic tune that showcases the fact that the band is stretching beyond what they are known for, and reaching for a denser sound that allows the group explore new styles — and Cy Curnin to sing in a more subdued way.

The Fixx were never known as rockers (with a hard edge), but on “Take a Risk” they really rip it up in a way that harkens back to a post-punk sound of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. The album continues to deliver on surprises with the title track that has Curnin singing in a falsetto over a mid-tempo groove that has elements of reggae and a delicate guitar hook from West-Oram.

However,  Beautiful Friction  does gets bogged down in the middle of the album with fillers like “Second Time Around” and “Follow that Cab.” But the band redeems themselves toward the end with “Shaman” and “Girl with No Ceiling.”  Nevertheless,  these are small quibbles in an otherwise very strong album by the Fixx.  The sheer maturity of their playing shows these guys haven’t rested on their laurels after they stopped headlining arenas in favor of smaller venues (hell, I remember when they played the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk a couple of summers in a row).  Yes, the hits pay the bills (and it’s generally what most audiences want to hear when a group like the Fixx rolls into town),  but to hear how well the band is playing, and how Cy Curnin’s voice has matured in a delightful way,  is something one shouldn’t forego just to hear their songs that make you want to turn up the collar on your polo shirt, slip into your parachute pants and do that ‘80s dance.

  • Jules

    I’m looking forward to listening to this. I saw them in concert in ’83, and they were great. It’ll be interesting to discover how they’ve matured over the years.

  • Bash Beard

    See them back on the beach in Santa Cruz August 17! Always a special gig – they love playing in that setting.

  • Ted

    It took a few listens, but most of the songs are really good — as you can tell from my review.

  • Ted

    Thanks! Good to know!

  • JMF

    One of the strongest bands from the 80s really looking forward to seeing them live again
    and listening to the new album. If you haven’t seen the FIXX live …. well you are in for
    a real treat!

  • Bob Sacco

    Ted, yes you are right. The band is the most underrated of all from the MTV generation and is still producing original music that is still relevant after 30 years. That because they are exceptional musicians that write compelling lyrics that still reflect our society today. Your comment about turning your Polo shirt collars and reducing the band to a retro 80’s one-hit band to enjoy really is very wrong. The Fixx have a very large back catalog of hit songs that are critically acclaimed not just popular. They had their “own” sound and their own unique message that has NEVER wavered to this day 30 years later. How many bands among their peers can you say have done this? No, you will not find a bunch of middle-age people dancing aimlessly in a 80’s spastic dance when you attend a Fixx concert. What you will find are smart thinking people of all ages who enjoy quality musicianship. This band still has something to say. What’s surprising to me is that I’ve known this all along. Now it’s time for everyone else to enjoy…

  • Ted

    I didn’t mean to suggest that fans of the band were or are a bunch of ’80s throwbacks. Rather, many people will only remember the Fixx for their hits and would see them live to remember and dance to songs that were popular back in the day. My point was: to only do so would be to miss the way the sound of the band has evolved.

  • Ted

    Yes, now that I know they are playing in Santa Cruz in August, I think I’m making a trip down there to see them.

  • DwDunphy

    Exactly. I’m a huge fan of the band and have always appreciated their album cuts above their hits, which number coldly as three – “One Thing Leads To Another,” “Saved By Zero” and “Secret Separation.” Other songs charted but didn’t climb high enough. By that standard The Fixx beat Men Without Hats, but only by two.

    Having said that, they have always been a unique band that didn’t sound quite like anyone else, and at this stage I don’t think anyone but the most ardent fans could have expected an album as strong as Beautiful Friction. Fortunately, they never really lost “it,” but I guaranteed that for most of those that find this new album, wherever they do, they will be shocked that the band is still in existence at all.

    Doesn’t make me feel good to say that either, because it speaks to a very real musical myopia that exists, and not made any easier to dispute by bands that exist solely to regurgitate oldies on their endless reunion tours. Speaking solely for myself however, we have so far in 2012 had three full-fledged reunion albums of new material worth someone’s time, and this is one of them.

  • Ted

    One of my friends was chiding me about my endorsement (or enDOSEment) of the new Fixx album. He said “Good God! Are they still around?” I told him they were and he just chuckled and called me old. Whatever. I mentioned that the album was really good, and at the end of the conversation, he was like “Huh. I’ll have to check this out.”
    But you’re right Dw about bands doing greatest hits tours and churning out expanded versions of classic albums. As much as I love the Who, I wish they would stop with the retrospectives and write some new material that tries to break new ground.

  • Jack Duane

    Don’t understand your hit count. Men Without Hats had 2 top 40 hits. The Fixx had SIX and that doesn’t even include ‘Stand or Fall, ‘Red Skies’, ‘Deeper and Deeper’ or ‘Driven out’.

  • Dennis Scalzitti

    I saw The Fixx earlier this evening, and needless to say, their 90-minute set did not disappoint. Unlike so many of their early 80’s contemporaries, they’ve never stopped recording and touring. And as a result, their band is a well-oiled machine that still sounds as relevant today as they did in 1982. Individually, none of the band members is a virtuoso, but together they mesh their talents into a seamless unit that sounds terrific in a live setting. This was the fourth time I’ve seen them live, and I will continue to catch their act every time they play here in Jersey.

  • Dennis Scalzitti

    I like the new album “Beautiful Friction” a lot, and I like it even more with every repeated listen…….it’s a great addition to The Fixx’s catalog of great music.