John Foxx – The Garden

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I’ve long been an admirer of John Foxx’s Ultravox, and his first solo album Metamatic is still probably in my top 10 favourite albums ever. Strange then that I never explored anything after that. It just seemed that all the subsequent singles he released were compromising his vision, sounding increasingly like his former bandmate’s anthemic pop noise and increasingly desperate. The cruel irony being that, the more populist he became, the further away from popular he got: his biggest hit is still the Ballardian cold-wave classic “Underpass”.

But when I came across this Portugese pressing  of The Garden (the 1981 follow-up to Metamatic) recently, I figured it was time to give it a chance.  And, if you put Metamatic out of your mind, and enjoy it on it’s own terms, it’s not a bad listen. The alienating drum machine and sequencers had all been ditched in favour of  a live group, but with an electronic sheen typical of productions from this period, placing Foxx in a pantheon of cold stars that would’ve included Simple Minds, OMD, Talk Talk and of course Midge Ure’s version of Ultravox.  The difference being that all those other groups had mega-hits, and Foxx didn’t, which makes him look a bit sad and pathetic, despite that fact that his songwriting and arrangements still had the edge over most of those groups. The good guys don’t always win.

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Published in: on March 1, 2010 at 10:59 am  Comments (3)  
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  1. I’m the same as you – the first three Ultravox albums were the soundtrack to my teens, Systems of Romance is probably in my own top 10 to this day. (Have you ever heard the 7″ version of Hiroshima Mon Amour by the way? Stunning crash noise version.) ‘Course I love Metamatic and it was a long slow slide that began with The Garden. Such a shame, I’ve not really been convinced by his recent work with Louis Gordon either. Still, I’m immensely grateful for his inspiration and he’s evidently a fascinating man – his interviews on The Quietus are well worth seeking out. Your copy of The Garden is missing the booklet that I think was a limited edition release. It was glossy, contained quite a few photos and some of the text from his long-planned, but never yet published novel The Quiet Man.

  2. yes as i mentioned this is a portugese pressing with just a plain white inner sleeve, so no nice booklets i’m afraid. i’ve not bothered to check any of Foxx’s recent activity – if there’s anything else of his you think i should be listening to please clue me up!

  3. I’m no expert, but his Tiny Colour Movies is rather fine – atmospheric instrumentals quite like a development from Metamatic.


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