Classix Nouveaux

The Liberty Singles Collection

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The entire output of Classix Nouveaux encompassed only a few short years, but listening to the A- and B-sides of their singles, as anthologized here, the amount of musical growth the band achieved in that time is impressive. Like their new romantic brethren, they came out of the punk scene, but opted for a musically and visually flamboyant approach that was the polar opposite of the stark post-punk aesthetic. They combined funk/disco grooves with colorful synth riffs and big, bold pop melodies (and outrageous outfits) just as the likes of Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet did, though Classix Nouveaux never broke in the U.S. like those bands. The Liberty Singles Collection lets you hear Classix maturing before your very ears. You can still hear traces of the band's punk past (two members were previously part of X-Ray Spex) in the sci-fi rocker "Little Green Men," which is kin to Spizzenergi's contemporaneous "Where's Captain Kirk?" in both style and theme. However, they got their pop chops together in short order, as evidenced by the larger-than-life chorus of "Guilty," one of the band's best-known songs. The one surprise in the midst of the group's progression is the boisterous, decidedly glam-inflected "We Don't Bite (Come a Little Closer)," surely the toughest tune in the Classix repertoire, and apparently written by singer Sal Solo for a pre-CN endeavor. Beyond that, as things move chronologically along, the synth pop side of the sound becomes more prevalent, as do the dance grooves (buoyed by generous amounts of fretless bass and Simmons drums) and sleek pop production moves. Solo's voice, sort of an even more dramatic-sounding cousin to that of Ultravox crooner Midge Ure, can be an acquired taste when he indulges in one of his "operatic" moments, either reaching for shrieking high notes or emphasizing his natural vibrato to an unearthly extent, but when he lays into the irresistible choruses of tunes like "Guilty" and "Is It a Dream," all his excesses are forgiven.