CMC International Records, 1998
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/12/1999
I'm used to getting CDs in the mail from record companies who are looking to help promote their artists by having us review them. What I'm not used to is having readers send me CDs.
Doug Guillory believes so much in Elemental, the latest album from The Fixx, that he sent me a copy of the disc. All he asked was that whoever reviewed it keep an open mind and write a fair review.
Now, having spent my formative teenage years growing up in the '80s during the birth of MTV, I knew Cy Curnin and crew fairly well. I knew what the band was capable of putting out - as heard in songs like "Sunshine In The Shade," "One Thing Leads To Another," "Saved By Zero" and "Are We Ourselves". I also knew that the last I had heard of the band was their album Ink, an album that, to put it mildly, disappointed me. (I'll admit I haven't listened to that one since I was in college.)
Had Curnin and crew tried to recapture the sound and feel of the band from the '80s, I would have predicted that the results would have been disastrous. So, it is a wise move for the band (Curnin, guitarist Jamie West-Oram, keyboardist Rupert Greenall, drummer Adams Woods and bassist Chris Tait) to try and forge a new sound for themselves at the turn of the millenium. True, it's one that taks a little time to get used to, but is well worth the effort.
In Curnin's case, the years since the glory days of The Fixx have treated his voice well. There is a greater sense of maturity in the vocals on Elemental, as heard on tracks like "Happy Landings," "Ocean Blue" and "We Once Held Hands". You can still hear flashes of Curnin's old style from time to time, but instead of possibly sounding like a retro act, Curnin's vocals are as smooth as water running in a stream.
Even the music featured on Elemental dares to put the past glories aside and try to succeed or fail on its own. Again, for the old-school fan of The Fixx, it takes a little time to adjust to, but the adjustment ends up to be a pleasant one. "You Know Me" , "Silent House" and "Fatal Shore" all are some of the highlights of the songwriting.
But where Elemental falls a bit short is that it does have a tentative feel to it. Granted, one couldn't blame Curnin and crew if they were a bit apprehensive going into this album. It had been years since they had a hit and since they had been in the spotlight. (Last I heard from a VH-1 special, Curnin was making hats for a living.) Still, it surprised me that some of the music didn't sound as confident as it could have been. Does that make it bad? Not at all - but it does suggest that there may not have been total faith in this project.
What is a shame for The Fixx is that Elemental didn't generate the kind of attention that it could have. Maybe it was due to listener apathy, maybe it was because radio didn't grab anything off this album and play it to death. Whatever the case, Elemental is, for the most part, a decent listen that is well worth your time and attention.