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BBC – Music – Review of John Foxx and the Maths

Written by on October 17, 2020

When artists return to the fray after a long break, they are immediately forced to play their trump card.

Devoted fans will pine for new material from a retired musician for an almost indefinite period of absence. But returning stars are only guaranteed treatment like the prodigal son for a finite amount of time.

In short, comebacks can often unwittingly remind the public of why said artist was forced to leave the spotlight in the first place. But John Foxx is different.

After a lengthy hiatus from recording and playing live (between 1985 and 1997), Foxx has gone from creative strength to strength.

This is despite the second half of his career coming relatively late in life and being much longer than his initial, modest flush of popularity (as front man of the forward-looking post punk band Ultravox! and then as an early 80s synth pop star).

Evidence is his third album in as many years collaborating with east London synthesizer expert Benge (aka The Maths), and easily the best of the three.

More importantly, however, this is probably Foxx’s most superior post-Ultravox! LP to date, and definitely his best in a very long time.

Benge’s signature technique (using very old analogue equipment to create very modern textures and music) has now gelled completely with Foxx’s songwriting. This time there are no missteps or filler at all, and the production is dynamic, rich and loud.

Several well-chosen guests, each of whom bolsters the experience rather than grandstand, help the album’s pacing.

Luis Vasquez of The Soft Moon uses an ARP Odyssey (the synth all over Foxx’s 1980 solo debut, Metamatic) on the title track to create a sombre meditation which sounds musically like Joy Division, had the Mancunians continued their experiments with austere sounding synths.

Probably the best track on the album is Changelings, a remix of a Gazelle Twin song replete with new John Carpenter-esque synths and breathy 10cc-style multi-tracked backing vocals.

Elsewhere, Foxx takes Pink Floyd’s now slightly hackneyed anti-record label diatribe Have a Cigar and turns it into luxurious bass and bleep electro that wouldn’t sound out of place on DFA.

Long may his creative renaissance continue.

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