The Fixx

Beautiful Friction

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From the return of Dan K. Brown -- the bassist on all their classic efforts from Reach the Beach (1983) to Ink (1991) -- to its George Underwood cover art (the painter whose work adorned Reach the Beach and Phantoms), Beautiful Friction is a return to form for the Fixx, the synth-pop-but-almost-prog-rock group who made socially aware angst fly up the charts in the '80s with "Red Skies," "One Thing Leads to Another," and "Saved by Zero." This reunion effort is without a surefire hit like those, and at first listen, it is a bit light on hooks, but lead single "Anyone Else" is strong enough to beckon any longtime fan's return, and the skeletal, funky workout called "Girl with No Ceiling" brings to mind the Phantoms era -- kinetic in an "Are We Ourselves" style. While that’s all good news, the real surprise here is how Beautiful Friction builds, from the first half's set of politically minded, Occupy Movement-admiring prog for the people, to the second half's blast of the Fixx as quirky new wave attack unit, featuring a whip-smart guitarist (Jamie West-Oram), a keyboard whiz (Rupert Greenall), a propelling drummer (Adam Woods), and a reliable, Bill Wyman-esque bassist (Brown). From the whirlwind "Follow That Cab" to the slow-rolling, life-affirming closer "Small Thoughts," vocalist Cy Curnin leads the band on something akin to a mini-Fixx concert that's alive and familiar in feel, even when the material is new. Repeat listens make that initial uphill climb a richer, more purposeful experience, and with everything feeling vital past the halfway point, Beautiful Friction is a win-WIN for fans.

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