Fixx: The Best of Fixx: The Millennium Collection

The Best of Fixx: the Millennium Collection

The brief for The Millennium Collection series, as the news release would have it, is to feature “new ‘best of’ albums from the most significant music artists of the past century”.

I’m sorry, what? Fixx were not only not one of the most significant “music artists” of the past century, they were not even one of the most significant of the ’80s, the first and last decade in which they had any importance at all. Kern, Berlin, Porter, Hammerstein, and some kids called Gershwin were significant artists of the past century. Depeche Mode, U2, New Order, the Smiths, OMD and Duran Duran were significant artists of the ’80s. Fixx were a failing quintet saved from failure by their producer (Rupert Hine, who would do similar polish work for Howard Jones — but Howard was a more talented songwriter to start with). Together they made some commercially (and surprisingly creatively) successful records, and crafted a distinctive sound based around guitarist Jamie West-Oram and vocalist Cy Curnin. West-Oram had a distinctive guitar sound which, depending on how you feel about the band, you can say was his trademark or an inability to sound any different way. Regardless, he remains one of those players whose work is recognizable from the first notes, best evidenced here on “Are We Ourselves”, bending and spraying chords with abandon. Fixx were a perfectly decent singles band of the ’80s, the kind of group that is very likely best served by a collection like this, but to pretend they were ever big fish is just kidding ourselves.

Their first hit, “One Thing Leads to Another” is still their most remembered, and the seed from which all the others grew. It’s got West-Oram’s choppy guitars, the least subtle keyboards ever recorded, and Curnin’s remarkable tendency to sing as though he is reading from a grocery list. Yet it’s still one of their best records, thanks to an endearingly nonsensical lyric (although y’know, why don’t people do what they say, say what they mean?) and inventive vocal arrangements. The overbearing keyboards (and I’m a man who likes keyboards, please remember) continued on “Saved By Zero” and “Sign of Fire” in cheap “ominous” fashion. By the time we reach “Deeper & Deeper”, they were practically Depeche Mode, and “Less Cities, More Moving People” is even more generic in it’s synth sounds. So is “Built for the Future”, but at least that has the sort of melodic hook you find yourself singing to yourself all day.

“Secret Separation” was their second-best single, unfortunately the record has the now very-dated snare drum sound of 1986. Still, it also has nicely tasteful licks from West-Oram and one of Curnin’s most cohesive lyrics.

The collection ends with two songs recorded “live”. The “live” is in quotes because though I cannot prove it, it sure sounds to me like the kind of “live” recording that’s augmented with overdubs and maybe, even, spliced in audience cheering. But, as I say, that is only supposition on my part. What is not supposition on my part is that the recordings — “Stand Or Fall” and “Red Skies” — add nothing to the originals in arrangement or performance. I’m really not sure about the second being a live recording there are no audience sounds to be heard on it at all.

As said above: You’ll find all the singles you know from Fixx on this collection, and if that pleases you, enjoy. But you know, One Thing Leads to Another, a previous greatest hits, as well as the Fixx Ultimate Collection, contain all the best songs here and adds “Letter to Both Sides”, a should-have-been hit from the Fletch soundtrack and one of their strongest songs. If I wanted to buy a Fixx collection, I’d go looking for one of those. Your best buy is probably One Thing Leads to Another, unless you really think you’d miss “How Much Is Enough,” which hadn’t been recorded at the time of that retrospective. It’s hard to imagine anyone having strong associations with that song, from their last-grasp for popularity in 1991, as it’s mainly notable now for how much it sounds like INXS. But again, an insidious melodic hook, by this time crossing the line into annoying.

In “Built for the Future”, Fixx told us all, repeatedly, that “It doesn’t mean much now”. Well, guess what? It still doesn’t. But, it’s catchy, meaning-impaired pop that sounds good coming out of your speakers and doesn’t demand your attention or concentration.