Record Review: John Foxx – Metamatic DLX RM [part 1]

Three discs – just like I predicted, but not when I predicted

Eight years ago, I predicted a 3xCD DLX RM of John Foxx’s “Metamatic” but in my naïveté, I had imagined that it was going to manifest by 2013. It’s taken five more years, but it has been out for about a month now, and I have had sufficient time to digest its stories for a suitable period, so now we are going to dive in.

Deep.

You have been duly warned.


Ultravox ca. 1979: [L-R] Warren Cann, John Foxx, Robin Simon

Following the breakthrough [artistically, at least] of “Systems Of Romance” by Ultravox in 1978, the band found themselves dropped by Island Records at the end of the year. Three strikes you’re out. Except that the band stuck together for another few months. Long enough for Ian Copeland to book the band on a US tour with no label support that criss-crossed America on the cheap – like he did to break The Police a year or two prior. Band jammed into a van with instruments and they used the house PA at each gig. Not how it is run in the UK where the band must bring their own PA to play.

The band were able to sell out the famed L.A. venue The Whiskey-A-Go-Go for a run of several nights. Obviously, there was a market for this forward looking band in America at the time. I suspect that the members of Berlin were all there taking notes. The tour was deemed successful to the point where the band returned home to England with a few Pounds in their pockets; which rarely happened. But the successful tour was not without its price. Namely, the split of John Foxx and guitarist Robin Simon from the band.

During this time, Foxx and the band had been writing and new tracks like “He’s A Liquid” and “Touch + Go” were unleashed on US audiences from coast to coast. Of course these songs [but not the unrecorded “Radio Beach”] ended up on the “Metamatic” album to follow, and the melody to “Touch + Go” was kept by the next incarnation of Ultravox to form the backbone of their own composition, “Mr. X.” But apart from writing and playing new tunes, all was not well within Ultravox.

Warren Cann reported that the band were held together by a thread of gig responsibility during this time and nothing else as the relations between the band and Foxx had completely broken down. No one was surprised when at the end of it Foxx walked, though Simon leaving as well was a unexpected. Simon had found a girlfriend in New York, but Foxx had his fill of the rock + roll lifestyle. Touring didn’t hold much allure for this introspective man who once sang “I Want To Be A Machine.” While cyborgs were still pretty far out, the cost of synths were dropping as the market was getting invaded by players other than Moog which brought the prices downward. For his part, Foxx was thrilled to see if he could do it all on this new, inexpensive gear without needing to have a band to get it onto tape. The Fripp-defined era of the small, mobile, intelligent unit was now deemed possible and Foxx was eager to give it a try.

Next:  …Machines That Make Art

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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3 Responses to Record Review: John Foxx – Metamatic DLX RM [part 1]

  1. Echorich says:

    There really isn’t any comparing Touch + Go with Mr. X for me. Where Touch + Go is full of introverted, anxious pathos, Mr. X is cold and dark, almost intentionally emotionless. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate Mr. X. It’s one of the stand outs on Vienna for me. But Touch + Go belongs with Down In the Park and Are Friends Electric? in it’s solitary man searching for meaning and emotional connection – one of John Foxx’s greatest moments.

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  2. Gavin says:

    To be honest,in all these years I have never connected a similarity between T&G and Mr.X,though both are firm favourites of mine.Those swirling ominous synths during the last minute or two of T&G have always captivated me,with the sudden perfect ending being the icing on the cake.
    Mr.X/Herr.X for me is the ultimate soundtrack to a “New Romantic” experience,it is so pure,minimal and crisp that I am always put into a timeless trance when I hear it.I was beyond thrilled when Ultravox played it at their Hammersmith show during the Brilliant tour.
    I have yet to hear the 3CD Deluxe of Metamatic,so eagerly awaiting the word from The Monk.I will certainly purchase it at some point,but will have to make space on the shelf next to several other copies I already own to accommodate it!
    It is taking me ages to catch up with Foxxys releases,mostly due to finances but partially due to over saturation.I only recently acquired “Evidence of Time Travel” and “Codex”

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  3. The “Touch & Go”/”Mr. X” similarity popped up immediately for me upon purchase of Metamatic, which was easily the most anticipated purchase of that year. Around the same time I received (via the Monk) a tape of UK/Oz music videos from Ron “the god” Kane that included “Underpass,” and that solidified my fandom.

    Foxx’s debut was certainly the best album I heard that year and made me an instant fan, sending me scurrying back to find and love the brilliant (albeit quite different) “UltraFoxx” releases. At the time I saw the breakthrough Vienna album from Ultravox and Metamatic as two complimentary new plateaus, and it was pleasing to me that the two fronts continued for quite some time to thrill with each new release.

    Years later, Metamatic remains one of my favourite albums, so I am naturally beyond thrilled to see it get the extravagant expanded release it has truly deserved, and even more thrilled to now — finally — have an autograph from The Quiet Man himself. Hopefully he will do some more touring in the future so I can accomplish the other item on my John Foxx “bucket list.”

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