Record Review: John Foxx – Metamatic DLX RM [part 4]

The Roland CR-78 not only played every rhythm on “Metamatic;” it also gave one track its name…

[continued from last post]

The next track on the album took its name cheekily from a setting on the iconic Roland CR-78 rhythm box that gave the album its metallic heart. The “Metallic Beat” setting added a clanking metallic tone to the rhythms which Foxx sought to use in extreme for the song “Metal Beat.” The dubspace utilized here was as sonically wide as possible with the widest possible channel separation with a stream-of-consciousness lyric across the top complete with ping ponging vocal panning for maximum stimulation. This was Foxx being as playful as he got on this album. The Doppler shifted bass synth was right at home here. The bending of pitch in Doppler shift to suggest an even larger acoustic space and movement was a gambit that appeared throughout the record, as we will see.

The second single released from “Metamatic” was “No-One Driving.” It almost matched the chart placing of “Underpass” with a #32 peak and the single made a lot of sense with the Moroder motorik pulse of the song being far more lively and fast paced than anything on side one of the album thus far. The song’s precise gridlike patterns, punctuated by some seriously filtered synthetic claps which I am guessing had their origins in the Arp Odyssey MK III that was the primary lead instrument here. I have to admit, that the sharp lyrical metaphor of the title is one that I have used with tedious frequency in the disturbing horrorshow that has been the 21st century thus far. It is a fitting excuse for so much of what ails us.

Side two, predictably, began with Virgin’s initial choice for the lead single from the album, but “A New Kind Of Man” was not completed in time for the projected album launch before Christmas [there would have been some jolly fun during the holidays with this album as the soundtrack, eh?]. And by the time the album was ready for January 1980, they had changed their mind and had put out “Underpass.” That didn’t stop rare copies with the same cover as “Underpass” [except for the type] from getting loose in the wilds. Or Italy from going with this as the single as shown at above left.

“A New Kind Of Man” had a fast-paced rhythm that plays like a close cousin to Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn Theme!” This was juxtaposed with more Theremin-like synth leads for two touchstones of the 1950s to make their presence felt here. Appropriate, since the lyric even references 1958, but alas, Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn” soundtrack dates from 1959. The verses references cinematic technique; not the first time it will happen in this period for Foxx:

A voice-over through scenes of sunrise
“It feels like someone is using my eyes”


“Don’t forget me” fades in static
Another scene began…

Foxx seems to have referenced film noir detective tropes [so Peter Gunn was a very appropriate source to reference] to extend his thematic vision. It should also be said that the “Metamatic” cover was a depiction of the first couplet of this song and it looked far more futuristic than anything Blake Edwards would have filmed in the late 50s.

Next: …A Slower Pace Returns


About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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1 Response to Record Review: John Foxx – Metamatic DLX RM [part 4]

  1. Echorich says:

    No One Driving is the height of drama/trauma; Ballardian, clearly, dystopian most assuredly. It has a cousin in Sleepwalk, just. Ultravox/Ure take some of the same themes and exchange Foxx’s introverted fear for cinematic first person paranoia.
    When Foxx chooses to be “cinematic” he gives us New Kind Of Man. Still portraying the narrator, Foxx plays up societal Future Shock rather than just one man’s metamorphosis. For me this isn’t simply the closest Foxx would come to Kraftwerk in sound, it builds another 10 storeys on that sound.


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