After what seemed to be a several year wait, advance word came last Monday that the next John Foxx + The Maths album was coming on May 15th, 2020. It would have longtime John Foxx guitarist Robin Simon joining with Foxx, Benge, and violinist Hannah Peel for a dive into quite another kind of sonic bucket for the The Maths. Advance word filtered out last year where Foxx cited a Velvet Underground influence to the new music; which was something he had assumed had manifested in his career but after examining it, he discovered that he really had not hit that target to his satisfaction.
John Foxx + The Maths: Howl – UK – CD 
- My Ghost
- Everything Is Happening At The Same Time
- Tarzan And Jane Regained
- The Dance
- New York Times
- Last Time I Saw You
- Strange Beauty
The basic format is the digipak CD but the Foxx webstore also has two colors of LP [black and yellow, as on the Barnbrook cover] available with and without the CD in a range from £10.99/CD to £46.99 for both color LPs and the CD in the big bundle. Actually, there are only seven variations, so kudos for keeping the options down to a modest level. In the past I have bought Foxx releases on LP and CD but the LPs have not had color variations. I imagine I will opt for the CD with maybe one, but not both of the LPs. The yellow vinyl is £2 more so maybe I’ll go for black. At any rate, my UK trip is just a month away, so I won’t be pre-ordering this until some time closer to the May 15th release date. However, I did immediately buy the pre-release DL single!
John Foxx + the Maths: Howl – UK – DL – 
- Howl [single version] – 3:34
- Howl – 5:20
I bought the single on Bandcamp on Monday morning. What a bracing, chaotic glamrok sound! It was a surprising dive back into the howling feedback of “Ha! Ha! Ha!” only allied this time with a Bauhaus-like dark, sexy whipcrack beat courtesy of Benge, who also played the filthiest synth bass imaginable. The synthesizer factor here was as low as it’s been for Foxx since certain tracks that second Ultravox! album. It’s primarily Simon’s show as the howling chaos of his playing was front and center here. Foxx hung back here, his voice run through a chorus and further distortion for a distancing effect, proffering only the barest hint of guidance to the raging stallion of Robin Simon’s guitar. The lyric seemed to be purely a response to Simon’s playing.
“I see you stand in the middle of a storm
And all the traces are gone, gone, gone
Howl downtown, let the beast out
Let the beast out …now!” – “Howl”
It first blush, the tone of the playing struck me as being cut from the cloth of Gang Of 4’s Andy Gill [r.i.p.] as I immediately heard the kind of serrated, violent chording that Gill played on cuts like “To Hell With Poverty.” Further listening [and commenter Brian on the Foxx website forum] had me admitting that there was also evidence of Fripptone® ca. “Scary Monsters [and super creeps…]” to be found here… only amped up to astonishingly aggressive levels.
The guitar was in your face and down your throat from the get-go, but further playing revealed that Benge was playing valuable counterpoint here with all of the rhythm under his command. The lurching synth tone only ever got a bit of spotlight on the middle eight, which was the only part of this that sounded remotely like what we expect from a John Foxx project. I also love the aggressive mixing that Benge and Foxx oversaw here with Simon’s guitar cutting in and out of the mix with hard, percussive edits that were shocking in their abruptness. Hear for yourself below.
If the aggression from “Ha! Ha! Ha!” has made a surprise return here, the huge difference was that the sheer, paint-stripping violence of the bleeding edge/bleeding ear sound of that album was channeled into something far more sexy here. In that respect, my favorite “Interplay” track, “Catwalk,” was the closest touchstone to this sound. It had that sort of swagger at its lurching core. I could not have imagined anything like this up front, so I’m eager to see what other surprises await us in two months. In the interim, you may pre-order below.
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