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.
– 30 –
It’s fantastic, isn’t it! Who would have ever thought we’d get classic 70’s Ultravox! in 2020?! Foxx is definitely not going gently into that good night, and I am HERE for it.
jsd – Well, I can’t call “Howl” “classic 70s Ultravox,” per se, but there were some aspects of that band present here, undoubtedly.
It is funny how the Ha! Ha! Ha! comparisons are here yet Robin Simon joined Ultravox for Systems Of Romance which was a much softer, mature (and to me much blander) album. Now, Robin seems to be letting loose his inner devil. Hit the audience between the eyes.
I was not aware that John Foxx had a Bandcamp presence. I am all for it. It is the best medium to concisely bring all your releases together and to cross sell without the cost of your own website download facility. So, I see that JF & LG have a live in Sydney album (“Metatronic Live In Australia”) on the horizon for June 2020 release
Duncan Watson – Fact. Everything is blander than “Ha! Ha! Ha!” Even so, “Some Of Them” was just a furious torrent of sound. Exhilarating.
The Live in Sydney release is part of disc two of this OOP release from a decade ago. Nice to see they are releasing that digitally for those who missed out.
Please let there be a tour…
SimonH – Please let there be a tour next year! I’ve already committed to use my three weeks of paid time off [also my sick time in Reagan’s America] by this June. I’ll be using nine days next month for the “Mad Monk” tour of Wales and England. Then there’s three days in April/May as we hit Chicago for a show. Then there’s the nephew’s wedding in Ohio in June. I don’t even have enough days left for that so I’ll be working a few Saturdays around that time. It has been my fervent fear that once I committed to travel to the UK to see the Human Seventeen show at The Roundhouse in a month, THEN would be when Foxx and the Maths would finally tour for the first [and possibly last] time in ages.
It’s always a risk when you commit to a gig with travel etc. And then something else amazing comes up. I’ve not travelled abroad for a gig for a long time though but have a few London gigs coming up, that counts for long distance travel in the UK:)
Say hello if you pass through Bristol!
Robin Simons playing on Magazine’s Play has always informed me that he has it in him to tear into a track. He may have made his name as a go to for artists looking for a certain mannered and controlled sound, but he’s got those guitarist chops that certainly show their full potential on Howl. Have to agree that I almost immediately heard how akin to Scary Monsters Era Fripp that Simon was playing.
I am not sure what to make of this yet.
On the first listen I didnt last more than a minute,but I do quite like the music now.Agreed that the guitar is Fripp-lite in style,but not quite as textural in my opinion.
The problem I have with this is the lyrics-not the vocal which is great and doesn’t make him sound any older than when he made The Garden.I just find the words too bland and simplistic,like most of his work with The Maths,which I find patchy I’m afraid.*ducks missiles thrown from readers*
The drum sounds and squelchy,squealing synths are great.
Gavin – After 40 years of The Quiet Man, it does look like Foxx has mutated the strain in the work with The Maths. When I look at the lyrics they are less like the Quiet Man journals of old and more stripped down and instinctual. Foxx’s Iggy phase? Except for outliers like “Catwalk” I still see The Quiet Man in the lyrics written for The Maths, albeit in simpler, more lyrical form. I do agree that “Howl” is outside of TQM. It is obviously a direct response to Simon, who was driving the bus.
When I listen to Foxx it’s the music far in advance of any lyrics, though his lyrics are usually worth my time and the thematic congruity across his career is perhaps more unified and stronger than any other artist so could name. I do feel that Benge is his most vital musical collaborator. Foxx is right to compare him to Conny Plank. But Foxx, unlike Karl Bartos, is constantly energized by collaboration and in these actions, he is content to mutate and subsume his primary solo themes to create a Third Mind scenario. And almost all of his work since returning has been collaborative. The fact remains that I have thought that JF+TM have made some of the strongest of his work ever. “Evidence” with Soft Moon is my favorite John Foxx song. “Howl” is not up to that standard but I’m still fascinated by it. The only Foxx release I felt to be substandard was the second Nation 12 single.
I’m a big John Foxx fan Monk. I’m quite surprised by this track. It’s always a pleasure to hear Robin working with John. I’ve been saying for a while that they should work together at least one more time before John’s career comes to an end. This is certainly the most upfront Robin’s guitar playing has been on any John Foxx solo release for me. I think the lyrics are quite simplistic for John but I agree with you that he may have been reacting to the music. I’m looking forward to the album very much.
I feel Foxx is still very much dealing with themes of New Man/Future Man in a familiar Ballardian way. Watching Barnbrook’s Karbon video accompaniment to Howl, those themes are heightened. I have to say I have felt the same about Numan’s recent releases. The sound is harder, harsher – in fact more recently, the synths have regained some prominence – but the themes of Future Fear, an isolated man, a Future Man, remain.
Foxx has an almost automatic ability to shape his sound with each collaboration and I always look forward to where this takes him. I am still mesmerized by his and Benge’s musical interpretation/accompaniment to EM Forsters The Machine Stops. It is one of the great electronic works of the 21st Century.
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There is actually three vinyl variants …. black .. yellow and orange.
The Live In Sydney download has been available since January.
Ljohn Foxx – Orange? Can’t see that in the store. Where is it tucked away? I hadn’t mentioned the “Live In Sydney” DL due to it being released on the “Metatronic” 2xCD + DVD back in 2010. But as that set’s OOP and costly, this is better than nothing did those who’ve not had the pleasure.
Orange vinyl is from independent stores. Rough Trade, Burning Shed and others, not Townsend.
Ljohn Foxx – Fascinating, captain. Thanks for the tip, but I was only going for maybe one LP. I can’t do more than that, not even for the collector’s sickness.
I do it for collectors reasons too.
I don’t even play the vinyl.
I went with the CD yellow vinyl bundle, then pre-ordered the Orange one too
Ljohn Foxx – I was prepared to play the “Underpass” remix 12” then my wife surprised me on my birthday that year with the VIP package with the CD-R. Saved from vinyl! I will get the CD/black LP, I think.
That’s the one CD that has eluded me. The quest continues ..
Ljohn Foxx – Yeah. Not cheap, so I wasn’t even going there, but I’m glad she did.
Lucky man. Keep it Foxx.
My only concern about this album is how quickly I’ve fallen in love with it…
SimonH – Was so caught up in the drama of life that I was blindsided by the reminder from the Foxx mailing list this week and my wife made certain the bundle I wanted was ordered [in spite of needing tech support from the Townsend IT crew]. So my CD/black LP isn’t here yet.
I don’t think you will be disappointed, ordered my cd from Banquet Records and they shipped on Tuesday, so turned up today.
This album would sound incredible live…
It is a thing of Strange Beauty.