Saturday, September 17, 2011

John Foxx- Metamatic (1980) Deluxe Edition (Bonus Disc) / The Garden (1981) Deluxe Edition (Bonus Disc) MP3 & FLAC

"Over all the bridges, echoes in rows, talking at the same time, click click drone."

Despite being a seminal figure in the rise of experimental synth-pop during the late 1970s, John Foxx has never received the level of notoriety lavished on fellow synth-pioneers Kraftwerk and Gary Numan.  Nevertheless, Foxx's uniquely detached vocal style as well as his consistently challenging approach to Electronic music, both of which he progressively developed during his tenure in Ultravox(!), were clearly major influences on Numan as well as any number of lesser New Wave artists who littered the musical landscape throughout the early eighties. In fact, aside from David Sylvian's mature work with Japan, it would be hard to find a more trailblazing figure in post-Glam electro-pop. Foxx (then known as Dennis Leigh) spent much of the mid-seventies in a marginal Glam band called Tiger Lilly, but in the aftermath of the rise of the Punk movement, he, along with violinist Billy Currie, formed Ultravox! whose first three albums, Ultravox!, Ha!-Ha!Ha!, and Systems of Romance, trace an increasingly experimental progression from Glam and Krautrock-inspired Post-Punk to a more lush yet minimalist, synth-dominated sound that points ahead to Foxx's even more groundbreaking solo work. Perhaps due to Ultravox's unselfconsciously experimental nature, the U.K. press was always dismissive of Foxx's version of the band. John Foxx: "Very early on, we decided to investigate and develop lots of what had then been declared ungood and which we felt were manifesting themselves and were worth recording. These included psychedelia, electronics, cyberpunk, environments and elements suggested by the likes of Ballard and Burroughs, cheap European music and modes, and strange English pop, such as some aspects of The Shadows and Billy Fury which seemed to relate to a sort of English retro-futurism. We were interested in a sort of ripped and burnt glamour. I was also taken with a detached, still stance."

Ostensibly, Foxx's decision to go solo after Ultravox's brilliant third album, Systems of Romance, had to do with the band's increasingly difficult circumstances, which included being dropped by their label, Island, on the eve of a U.S. tour. However, Foxx has suggested his departure was inevitable given his desire to pursue his own muse without interference: "The band thing is a phase- like being in a gang. You can't really be part of a gang all your life; it begins to feel undignified and it stunts your growth, unless you want to be a teenager forever. Some do. Some don't. The benefits were the Gestalt- where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, a very powerful experience- and working in a closed society with people who have the same aim. Of course, the aims almost inevitably diverge as you all grow. The point of view I've always worked from is that of a ghost in the city- someone who is a sort of drifting, detached onlooker- but still vulnerable and trying against all odds to maintain a sort of dignity in the face of all the static." Foxx would take this "ghost in the city" approach to a new level on his inimitable debut LP, Metamatic, quite possibly the most important electro-pop album of the eighties. Recorded in a small studio in North London, which Foxx once described as "an eight track cupboard [...] Very basic, very scruffy, very good," the album represents quite a departure from his work with Ultravox, as it completely dispenses with conventional instruments (and in the process, Foxx's Punk origins), instead relying entirely on synthetic textures, and in doing so, achieving a chilly, mechanized aesthetic that is both aurally challenging and artistically compelling.

Foxx: "I lived alone in Finsbury Park, spent my spare time walking the disused train lines, cycled to the studio everyday and wobbled back at dawn, imagining I was the Marcel Duchamp of electropop. Metamatic was the result. It was the first British electronic pop album. It was minimal, primitive technopunk. Carcrash music tailored by Burtons." Both lyrically and musically, Metamatic conjures dystopian images of isolated individuals navigating cold landscapes populated only by architecture and machines, with a recurring theme being disconnection. For example, on the stunningly strange opening track, "Plaza," Foxx's dis-attached vocals are surrounded by several synths all sounding as though entirely isolated from each other. This gives the song an eerie dislocated feel that contrasts sharply with the rather straightforwardly descriptive lyrics. The most recognizably pop-oriented song on the album is "Underpass," an electro-pop masterpiece that manages to be minimalist and incredibly catchy at the same time; it's melodramatic synthesizers and Foxx's heavily treated robotic vocals create another dark tale of unbridgeable distances, but the tension is undercut by the song's inherent danceability. While Metamatic ultimately proved to be the least outwardly accessible of Foxx's eighties solo albums, it also proved to be his greatest, as its follow-up, The Garden, though a fine piece of synth-driven pop in its own right, signaled a step toward a more conventionally melodic sound that Foxx would continue to explore, despite diminishing returns, for the remainder of the decade until dropping out of public view in 1986; however, it did not take long for his considerable influence to be felt. Foxx: "All the same sounds surfaced again after 1987, reanimated with beautiful new rhythms, as the beginnings of Acid. I recognized the vocabulary immediately. A new underground at last. Adventure was possible again after the double-breasted dumbness of the mid-eighties."

(Edsel ~ 2007/1980 ~ Deluxe Remastered 2-CD Edition)

Disc I: Metamatic (2007 Remaster)

 1. Plaza  (3:56)
 2. He's a Liquid  (3:03)
 3. Underpass  (3:57)
 4. Metal Beat  (3:02)
 5. No-One Driving  (3:48)
 6. A New Kind of Man  (3:42)
 7. Blurred Girl  (4:20)
 8. 030  (3:18)
 9. Tidal Wave  (4:17)
10. Touch and Go  (5:40)

Disc II: Bonus Material

 1. Film One  (4:03)
 2. This City  (3:08)
 3. To Be with You  (4:24)
 4. Cinemascope  (3:27)
 5. Burning Car  (3:16)
 6. Gimmer  (3:38)
 7. Mr No  (3:19)
 8. Young Love  (3:10)
 9. 20th Century  (3:09)
10. My Face  (3:21)
11. Like a Miracle (Alternate Version)  (3:56)
12. A New Kind of Man (Alternate Version)  (4:32)
13. He's a Liquid (Alternate Version)  (3:00)

The Garden 
(Edsel ~ 2008/1981 ~ Deluxe Remastered 2-CD Edition)

Disc I: The Garden (2008 Remaster)

 1. Europe After the Rain  (4:01)
 2. Systems of Romance  (4:04)
 3. When I Was a Man and You Were a Woman  (3:39)
 4. Dancing Like a Gun  (4:12)
 5. Pater Noster  (2:35)
 6. Night Suit  (4:26)
 7. You Were There  (3:53)
 8. Fusion/Fission  (3:51)
 9. Walk Away  (3:55)
10. The Garden  (7:11)

Disc II: Bonus Materials

 1. Swimmer II  (5:16)
 2. This Jungle  (4:44)
 3. Miles Away  (3:19)
 4. A Long Time  (3:51)
 5. Swimmer I  (3:34)
 6. Fog  (5:53)
 7. Swimmer III  (5:27)
 8. Swimmer IV  (3:58)
 9. Dance with Me (Early Version)  (3:52)
10. A Woman on a Stairway (Early Version)  (5:02)
11. Fusion/Fission (Early Version)  (3:53)
12. Miles Away (Alternate Version)  (3:23)


  1. thanks for the double double John Foxx post Voix...I already have "Metamatic" in it's double disc edition. I didn't have "The Garden" album, only the 12" single of "Europe After The Rain" which is an edited version but has a bonus track "You Were There" on the B-side that isn't included in the expanded "The Garden" :))

  2. AndieJames, my pleasure. I'll post doubles of his other two eighties albums over at PPP

  3. Thanks, v. Totally enjoyed the commentary. When Metamatic came out, I was stunned at the minimalism. It wasn't Ultravox. Then I realized what he had created was the essence of the aesthetic at the heart of (the first incarnation of) Ultravox. It truely was the new punk, stripped of all the artifacts of the old (rock)regime. When I sold all of my records, this was one of the few I held on to.

  4. bv, thank you, I put a lot of work into this one and I'm glad you enjoyed it. "Metamatic" is as essential as it gets. I'm thinking of doing a triple "Cathedral" post here at luna down the road

  5. Whoa, you don't mess around do you? Great post. I still have my original vinyl of these records and the subsequent cd versions that followed. Both far inferior to these remastered discs and all the extras. Thanks so much.

  6. Muchisimas gracias, estaba buscandolos a buena calidad hace muchisímo tiempo.

  7. This is jaw-dropping! Thanks so much for the John Foxx collection. This is very much appreciated. Beyond words.... Kurt

  8. Thank you so much for this post and all the information. I remember being disappointed with "Metamatic", actually expecting a fourth Ultravox-Album. The album disappeared in the shelves until a few years ago. The Garden therefore is a nice addition to my collection.

  9. foxx was one of the genuine things that came out of the punk ethos.. anyone who ever heard ultravox 2nd album for the first time knew they were listening to something radically new and philosophical even.. the violin fadeout on one of those numbers is awe-inspiring and unique, but there are some many points of dazzling beauty on that album.. his ambient stuff is top drawer too..thanks for this, by the way. weird what happened to ultravox after they got co-opted.. always scratched my head on that one.. middle-brow tastes i guess .. love yr. website and any swatches of ol' grey whistle test are welcome.. thankanou, yoshi

  10. sorry, correction, first album i guess, anyway, the one with the big red lipstick sign in the back and they're all standing like zombies looking straight out ahead under it... yoshi

  11. Anon., these remasters do sound very good. I have his other two eighties albums, which I don';t think are nearly as good. I'm thinking of posting them on PPP since I don't want to review them

  12. kurt, my pleasure. Foxx deserved the royal treatment

  13. deruf, keep your eyes open for two more eighties Foxx solo albums on Plastic Palace People. I'm thinking of posting all of his "Cathedral" albums here

  14. yoshi, I love the whistle test clips too. I wish there were more around to post. I recently posted the first three Ultravox albums at PPP, and I must confess, I wish I had posted them all here with reviews. Maybe I'll do so in a few months after they're buried on the other blog

  15. Europe after the rain, I love that song. After reading the commentary I feel it's time to revisit the Metamatic album as well. Probably still have the vinyl somewhere. But hey, now I can enjoy it in glorious flac! Thanks!

  16. In my opinion two overrates albums (i have all 2 LPs).
    Thanks anyway for sharing.

  17. Anon., in my opinion, one criminally underrated album ("Metamatic") and one very solid album that I agree tends to be a little overrated (The Garden")

  18. Gratitude Voixautre, still have Garden on vinyl haven't listened in (many) years - delghtful.

    You might want to watch out for 'A Secret Life' - John's Steve Jansen collaboration. >40 mins and minimalist enough to appease even Mr. Hollis - track 3 will slink over and caress you.
    Yep I did say abandoned, Steve D'Agostino rescued and completed the work.

    Michael 2

  19. Michael, you're welcome and I'll see if I can find the Foxx/Jansen album. Sounds very intriguing

  20. This has really made my week. Wore these out on vinyl back in the day but never got around to replacing my lps with cds. Thanks! Any chance of posting the next 2 on PPP as you mentioned earlier? While I agree with your assessment of them (especially In Mysterious Ways) it would be nice to hear them again and I remember there being a least a couple of songs on The Golden Section that I loved.

  21. Anon., you're welcome and thanks for reminding me about those two Foxx posts that I somehow forgot about. I'll have them up on PPP soon. I am alsoi planning to post all three "Cathedral" albums here in the next week or two

  22. dead link (FBI WARNING)


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