IN THE MUSIC SPOTLIGHT: THE FIXX AT MAYNE STAGE

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Cy Curnin of The Fixx at the Arcada Theatre, St. Charles, Ill. on July 26, 2013. | PHOTO BY JEFF ELBEL

BY JEFF ELBEL | FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

The best Fixx songs engage both the hips and the head. With a string of enduring radio staples including “One Thing Leads to Another” and “Secret Separation,” the Fixx balanced style and substance in the ‘80s. The slinky funk groove of “Saved by Zero” served the Zen concept of seeking one’s essence. The brash rocker “Driven Out” promoted sustainable ecology.

“My dad used to say, ‘Never underestimate the intelligence of the greater public,’” says vocalist Cy Curnin. “He’d say, ‘They’ll hear you. You’ll never be a huge group, but it’ll be a cool group.’”

Early Fixx singles like the apocalyptic “Red Skies” were fueled both by Jamie West-Oram’s chiming guitar and Cold War tension. Although it may not be “the Euro theatre” in current headlines, 1982’s cautionary “Stand or Fall” still seems shockingly relevant. “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” says Curnin. “We find ourselves in a society rampant with xenophobia and hypocrisy. I won’t say ‘told you so,’ because that was never what Fixx music was about. It was alarm bells and question marks.”

Despite an unflinching eye toward political and ecological peril, Curnin maintains hope. “Just Before Dawn,” from 2012’s “Beautiful Friction,” was a line-by-line expression of willful optimism in the face of adversity. “I wanted it to have a universal feel, even though it was fueled by breakdown in a personal relationship,” says Curnin. “I countered it with the way we relate to our brothers and sisters, and fellow human beings.”

Curnin describes work on a new Fixx album, with songs that ring some of those old alarm bells. Titles include “Wake Up” and “It’s Getting Closer.” “I wasn’t thinking much in a cryptic mood on the last album, and even less so now,” says Curnin. “As I get older, there aren’t many veils that I want to hide behind.”

On Sept. 18, the band performs an all-request show at Mayne Stage. Alongside Rupert Greenall’s moody synthesizer showcase “Deeper and Deeper,” expect some surprises.

“Fans write to Facebook with requests,” says Curnin. “What it’s forced us to do is play songs we’ve shied away from. ‘Running’ from ‘Reach the Beach’ has become one of my favorites. In the ‘80s, I was too busy being shoulder-padded-quirky-angle guy to realize how great it was to sing. It’s a crooner’s song, and Jamie’s guitar is so fluid against that laid-back singing. I’m lapping that up now.”

* The Fixx “By Request,” with New Canyons and DJ Dave Roberts, 8:00pm, Sept. 18, 1330 W. Morse, (773) 381-4551. Tickets $33; maynestage.com.

Jeff Elbel is a local free-lance writer. Email: elbel.jeff@gmail.com

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