Record Collector, December 2007
“Bells and whistles added to minimalist clang”
Back in 1979 John Foxx left Ultravox!, because he saw synthesised music as the future. By this time Ultravox! fan Gary Numan had kicked down the door to synth-pop with Are Friends Electric? and two follow up singles Cars and We Are Glass. Thus, when Foxx’s Metamatic came out in 1980, it not only made the Top 20, but spawned two Top 40 singles in Underpass and No One Driving.
Although reissued on CD in the past, it’s now received the whole nine yards treatment, with a bonus CD that incorporates rare B-sides and unreleased tracks, such as To Be With You, Like A Miracle and Young Love. Of course, with bands such as Klaxons singing Metamatic’s praises, Foxx is currently receiving young love aplenty. To be frank, however, Metamatic has not worn well. Although the analogue synth textures work well on the singles and tracks such as Plaza, Metal Beat and Touch & Go, the rhythms of the drum machines and overall sound of A New Kind Of Man and Tidal Wave are very dated. Considering how adventurous and warm the Human League’s Reproduction and Travelogue from the same period are, Metamatic is the sound of music austerity.
“Solo debut that launched a thousand bleeps”
In 1980, this was what the future was supposed to sound like. Foxx, a brain full of JG Ballard, left misunderstood pioneers Ultravox to craft minimalist electronic pop. While it’s easy to parody lyrics like “underwater kind of silence/humming of electric pylons”, Foxx was smarter than Numan and colder than Japan. Amid the staccato synths (“click, click, drum”, he sighs), his yawn of “another scene began” reveals a man intent on substance over style. This is the Klaxons’ all-time favourite album, apparently, but its influence moves immeasurably beyond that.