John Foxx

TrackAlbum / Single
EvidenceEvidence
Burning CarVirgin VS 360 single
The GardenThe Garden
Underwater Dream SexThe Drive EP
SkyscraperTiny Colour Movies
A Kind Of WaveThe Golden Section
KaiyaguraD.N.A.
A Woman On A StairwayVirgin VSD 615 single (B-side)
EvangelineEuropean Splendour EP
MetanymCathedral Oceans III

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Contributor: Martin Smith

John Foxx is a name that has been ‘almost there’ on the periphery of British electronic music for the past forty years. Since going solo in ’79 and popping up briefly in the Top 40 for a couple of years after that, Foxx has drifted through the corners of awareness; nurturing, inspiring. Dissolving, and re-forming. He is more widely known, respected and acknowledged now than at the height of his commercial ‘fame’ in the 80s – testament to the enduring nature of his unfashionable creativity.

From his earliest manifestation as a pioneer of electronica, I have chosen two tracks from among my personal favourites. The third single on the Metal Beat label, the apocalyptic Ballardian-nightmare that is Burning Car. A popular live favourite still, this track is always associated with the debut Metamatic album being stylistically and thematically at one with that material. Second is the title track of John’s second album The Garden (1981) – six minutes of lush choral harmonics and soaring synths, a grandiose pastoral composition that both realises and re-introduces the neo-Romantic idealogy of Systems Of Romance, from John’s first band, Ultravox.

From The Golden Section reissue on CD (2001), I have chosen A Kind Of Wave – a clever ‘pop’ song, included here specifically to represent his overlooked talent as a nifty songwriter. It also serves as evidence of my conviction that John’s very best material lies hidden away on ‘bonus’ material not written for wider exposure. London, meet London. Herein lies the essence of the artist’s true intention, and nowhere in John’s entire catalogue is this more eloquent than A Woman On A Stairway (1983). Distilled psychedelia – graffiti by Duchamp.

Foxx is a composite of three strands – a man, a woman and a city – intricately twisted and woven into the cloth of his grey suit. All the avenues of Paris, London and New York are knitted into the sleeves of his jacket, and every street he ever walked is mapped out on his face. Electronica, psychedelia, and ‘ambient’ choral harmonics dance together under the city streetlamps just as comfortably as they do under the silver moonlight on a Lancashire moor or the golden glow of a tangerine sunset.

The instrumentals Skyscraper and Kaiyagura demonstrate John’s leftfield penchant for marrying minimalist piano with echoing synths, layered with reverb and plunging tectonic bass notes. From his triptych masterpiece Cathedral Oceans, my toppermost set closes with the last track of that project, the beautiful swirling Metanym (2005), a short piece that ties everything back to the beginning and brings the circle just.

Or so you would think. But there is no ending, no point of departure. Witness the quasi-biographical analogue grittiness of Evidence (2012), the title of John’s third project with sound collector ‘Benge’ Edwards as John Foxx and The Maths. In this master file, all the artefacts are gathered together and fused into one giant spark of burning electro-flesh; from the post-coital aftershock of his Underwater Dream Sex (2003) encounters with Buxton’s Louis Gordon to the swollen arrogance of David Lynch’s Evangeline (2013), a recent ‘filmscape’ that literally drips with a menacing sensuality.

You’d be forgiven for thinking John Foxx has only just started …

John Foxx’s official site

John Foxx and The Maths

John Foxx biography (iTunes)

We hope to have a Toppermost one day for the band John Foxx formed in 1976, Ultravox, and here’s the final part of a revealing three part interview that John Foxx gave to Electrospective with some fascinating insights into the evolution of electronic music.

TopperPost #184

1 Comment

  1. Simon Stonehouse
    Feb 1, 2014

    Hi, I saw John Foxx live last summer – stunning show.

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