John Foxx – songs for the urban condition

The good folk at Projekt recently made available a very attractive 2CD/1DVD set of John Foxx’s new collection, Metatronic.

Foxx is the founder of Ultravox, a pioneer of synthesiser music and all-round clever artist. I saw him rip up Brisbane’s venerable Tivoli theatre two years back, proving that a man and a keyboard or three of electro goodness can put on a hell of a show (having Louis Gordon bouncing around like a mad thing doesn’t hurt, either).

In an interview prior to that tour, Foxx told me about his fascination with the urban landscape. That fascination is apparent on Metatronic, a retrospective put together by Foxx that showcases what he considers his darker material spanning his 30-year career to date.

On early listenings, it’s delivering what I was looking for: a soundscape for the city, lonely and echoing in places, peak-hour and oblivious at others; at times melancholy and other times strident, but almost always evoking a sense of isolation however desperately it might be resisted. Compelling bass lines lay the foundation, with slick, crisp production adding fill and texture (see The Noise). His almost desperate, hoarse vocals complete the picture: love lies lost in the rush and buried under the cacophony, leaves burn, cars burn, “there’s no one driving”.

While disc 1 is the showcase, the second value-adds with live tracks from Foxx’s gig in Sydney in 2008 supplemented with remixes. The DVD includes several music clips and two live clips.

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