If my count is correct, it’s been 370 days since CIX released their first studio album. This makes for a surprisingly lengthy hiatus between comebacks. They’ve returned with a different sound, taking a few cues from their debut era but bringing a newfound sense of maturity. As a fully-realized song, 458 doesn’t always get there. But, its overall vibe is quite captivating.
To my ears, 458’s opening verse is among the best pieces of music CIX have delivered yet. I love the percussive use of keys, which lend the instrumental a weight that instantly draws your attention. The arrangement is sparse, but every element is here for a reason. This segment has a confessional quality that works very well with the members’ vocals.
From here, 458 grows a little more familiar in execution, drawing on a few popular boy group tropes. But, the song remains evocative as it ties sharp bits of melody to an alt-r&b sound that injects percussion without sabotaging the creeping, almost-skeletal appeal of its groove. It uses empty space well, allowing the listener to focus on each element without the kind of boisterous assault that’s become common in 4th-gen boy group releases. However, there’s a limit to just how impactful a song of this style can be. I wish 458 built to a striking centerpiece that sent the song off on a memorable high. Instead, it lurches along, repeating its (admittedly great) tricks over and over. Nothing quite touches the drama of that first verse, but I’m happy to see CIX stretch their artistry with something a little left-of-center.