Customer Reviews: Metamatic
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on April 15, 2003
If you are a fan of Gary Numan, A Flock of Seagulls, the Human League, and other early 80s electronic artists, definitely check out John Foxx's works as he no doubt inspired them all. Metamatic is his first solo album after his stint as founder and vocalist with Ultravox. This album was first released in January 1980, and definitely has that Numan Pleasure Principle sound. A staple of the musical "futuristic" movement, Metamatic is darker and more detached than even Numan's early works. Foxx described this album as "carcrash" music. It is definitely inspired by the cold life of the city with people being reduced to liquid form. When listening to this CD, one hears the soundtrack of the period when the 1970s turned to the 1980s. "A New Kind of Man" has the factory pulse of early Wall of Voodoo, the dark "Blurred Girl" foreshadows A Flock of Seagulls' "The Fall", "Miles Away" is like Numan's "My Conversation" in pop form, "Touch and Go" sounds so much like Ultravox's "Mr. X" it makes one wonder if the track is a leftover from the Foxx years. It is not Foxx taking from others, but Foxx creating a type of music with themes that inspired a generation of songwriters. Still, Foxx added his own imagination to the music. As Foxx states, "We were constantly making new music for the cities. But rather than looking to America, I wanted to make a kind of music which might have happened if America had never existed. A sort of minimalist European urban electronic folk music. I had a picture of a future jukebox in some lost European motorway service station. I just listened to it play what became 'Metamatic.'" What makes this CD definitely worth the price are the additions. Seven bonus tracks are included, as well as lyrics to the original album tracks, several photos of Foxx, and a three-page mini bio of Foxx and the impact of Metamatic. It is a very impressive package.
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on January 8, 2002
When he appeared on Top of the Pops as singer of the new wave band Ultravox, he had everything going for him: good looks, memorable voice, quiet-spoken manner, sophistication and a good song: "Hiroshima, mon amour". But then he appeared in a Hawaii shirt and no-one appreciated the electronic sounds. Half a year later carbon-copy Gary Numan had his one shot at TOPT and did everything right: A Cool outfit and the detached mannerisms of the 80ies - and the timing was right: Foxx had just been a few months too early. Then Ultravox broke up, Numan published "The Pleasure Principle" and Foxx a few weeks later "Metamatic" - again, a few weeks too late. And so he went down as mere numan-sidekick. What a shame. "Metamatic" is electronic new wave essence. Never had been an album more daring, innovative and listenable than this. Even now it does not sound dated a bit. Discover this hidden gem. It might be your last chance. The new EDSEL edition contains a lot of additional tracks.
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on November 24, 2007
Metamatic is John Foxx's Cold Wave masterpiece, massive washes of intertwined synthesizer chords sustained forever, robotic clicks and beeps matched with bled-out J.G. Ballard alienated post-hope lyrics. Metamatic is the soundtrack for nuclear winter, brutalist concrete urb-scapes, relationships with strangers, pointless routine, a society that's forgotten how to communicate. Foxx sounds like a robot, but his compressed mechanical voice, powerful and on key, is also desperate and pleading. The hallmark of this record is its consistency - Foxx never gets sentimental or romantic, and the songs are unrelentingly, ferociously, massively synth-detached. The atmosphere cast by this record is alienating and frightening but also surprisingly joyous - there are plenty of quirky little randomized microchip melodies that make you smile, and Foxx's concentrated vocal detachment is ultimately a hoot. Plenty of these songs are bopping dance groovy, too. This is at least the second remastering I've heard, and there's more revealed in this mix. It also includes a few new B-side singles in the package - my fave is the "instrumental" (no actual instruments were used in this recording!) Mr. No.
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on February 2, 2003
Yes! - It can be done *real music played on synths. If you like the Cars then you should have this one.
I had a vinyl copy for this for years and bought the CD when my record player finally died. So now I get to hear the bonus tracks
*with beats that change from track to track, melodies, and lyrics worth listening to.
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on August 3, 2000
This is the UK's most influential LP/CD from the early 80's. John Foxx has been sited by Gary Numan as a major inspiration. The music is stripped down to the bare bones (mono synth lines and basic drum machines), but the sound is still full and gives the feel John was looking for. All the tracks are classics. UNDERPASS, ON-ONE DRIVING and MILES AWAY were all hits in the UK. Images of urban concrete, cars and metal claustrophobic intensity (METAL BEAT / HE'S A LIQUID) provide the theme throughout. If you've never heard of John Foxx (former lead singer with Ultravox) I insist you MUST check out this release. It's fantastic even 20 years after it's first appearance.
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on October 18, 2001
Gary Numan ("Replicas" CD, "Cars" single, etc.) publicly cited John Foxx as a major influence. Privately, so did dozens of other 1980's techno, synth-pop, and art-rock acts.
"Metamatic" was the CD (actually, an LP back in 1980) that John Foxx HAD to release. Ultravox seemed to be on the verge of "making it" as a progressive art rock act, but opted to become a completely disposable pop act, with a new vocalist fronting them. So, John Foxx who (along with Brian Eno) developed the Ultravox sound and image, was on his own.
Foxx had wanted to create a 'truly European' and 'very British' form of new wave music, not do pop for the U.S. market. That's an odd admission, since Ultravox sold more recordings in cities like Boston, MA and New York than they did in any European or U.K. location. One suspects that Mr. Foxx was simply saying that he was not interested in becoming a "pop star", but rather in creating innovative music.
Take a look at the cover of the first Ultravox album, and it's clear that John Foxx probably had the looks to make it as a pop star .
Well, anyhow, fans of Ultravox (particularly the "Systems of Romance" and "Ultravox!" CD fans) will probably be the biggest fand of "Metamatic".
The CD was criticized for sounding flat and mechanical at the time of its release, and it has a robotic, cyborgic quality to it. But like "Replicas", by Gary Numan & Tubeway Army, "Metamatic" was a CD that was way ahead of its time.
Released in early 1980, about a year after Numan released "Replicas", "Metamatic" reached number 18 in the UK albums charts & was preceded by the hit single 'Underpass', included on the album. Also featured is the follow-up hit 'No-One Driving'. The best cut, "Metal Beat" sounds like it needs an extended track treatmetn--streched to 7 or more minuets, from teh 3 minutes it gets here.
This edition of "Metamatic" is remastered by Foxx himself, with expanded artwork & sleevenotes by Record Collector's Daryl Easlea. The seven bonus tracks include two further hit singles "Burning Car" & "Miles Away", & five non-LP b-sides. So, it's not just the avant garde or techno music fans that will find this interesting listineing: archivists and collectors can finally get rare tracks in one package.
Now, if anyone wants to re-master and release the first 3 Ultravox CD's ... the sooner, the better.
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on September 12, 2000
You can always tell which CD's are the truly great ones: they are the ones that seem to get stolen when you aren't paying attention. This is one of them. Regrettably, it's out of print, so it can not be easily replaced.
At any rate, the few people who have copies own one of the great works analog-synthesizer music. Right up with Bill Nelson's "Sound On Sound", Tangerine Dream's "Stratosfear", and of course, John Foxx's own work with Ultravox.
A bit too cerebral for most of today's teen ravers, dumbed down by "airhead talent" like N'SYNC, Backstreet Boys, and Britney Spears. But a great find for the serious music lover, and the conoisseur.
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on November 6, 2013
I first discovered John Foxx years ago through an album called "Translucence and Drift" which he made with American piano composer Harold Budd. Harold Budd has quite a few collaborations yet TD stands out as a stellar, powerful minimalist atmospheric double album. Thusly, I began to delve into the discography of John Foxx, a former Ultravox member.

Before the Cathedral Oceans, there was a Garden and Metamatic. Released in 1980, this album starkly gathers Joy Division and Kraftwerk then fuses them together to create a very "it's 1980 and we don't live in the 70's anymore" album. This album is at once eerie, clever, observant, disciplined, hallucinogenic and haunting. The cover art which seems Masonic features a man who reaches (or creates) light with one arm.. and points down with the other. Despite the disciplined formal business wear the album style is somehow deeply hallucinogenic and spiritual in a way that is very unique.

The music itself stands up to repeated listens, from the haunting chorus of Tidal Wave to the shiver inducing epic of Underpass. Repeated listens reveal background details and textures, such as the mocking whistling noticeable in He's a Liquid. In the midst of the synth washes, fractured business speak (Liquidity, etc) and visions float through the lyrics. For a closer, Foxx gets whimsical, throwing a mutant Safety Dance your way via Touch and Go.

I have listened to TONS of music over the years and I can say that Metamatic is UTTERLY UNIQUE. It dares to be strange and challenging, haunting and ethereal .. without sinking into "Goth" rehashed stereotypes.
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I met John Foxx (Dennis Leigh), on the 21st of Jan, 2003, he said this is one of his favourite albums, but he wasn't too pleased that he used real bass guitars. This album influences me into using drum programming, and the cosmic chao chao synth.
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on January 24, 2006
Metamatic was John Foxx's first solo album after his departure from Ultravox, and to my own taste, already exceeds every succeeding album of him. It's a masterpiece of its own, totally underrated and unique, using a style of music which was never imitated or reissued, not even by Foxx himself.

But it did not chart very well, and did not have such a great influence as one reviewer exaggeratingly tried to suggest. For example, Gary Numan was indeed inspired by John Foxx, but only from TELEKON onwards, while his two great successes REPLICAS and PLEASURE PRINCIPLE were already published in 1979 before the release of METAMATIC. And The Human League had their massively popupar album DARE released in 1981 (which was quite stylised catchy synthpop, definetely not influenced by Metamatic), but in their original formation, they had already released REPRODUCTION and TRAVELOGUE before or coinciding the publication of METAMATIC.

But still, as I said, METAMATIC is a brillant masterpiece in its own right and is incomparable to any other album. John Foxx was influenced by German electronic music and French new wave movies. His work with Ultravox had been quite well, but with them, as Chris Bohn pointed out, he never quite realised his full potential.

This album employs different imagary, speaking of future and past, which is always quite desolated and disrupted, evoking both atmospheres of science fiction and film noir. It is dark and minimalistic, but the songs never outstay their welcome and each one is distinguisable from the others, has a uniqute effect and contribution, and is worth the purchase. There is no filler, so no song should be skipped.

My favourites are He's A Liquid, which is sombre and evokes an imagary of an old horror movie somehow; Metal Beat, which bears some similarities to Kraftwerk's Trans Europe Express (especially Metal on Metal), but is less pompous, bleaker, militant and quite gloomy; No-One Driving, which was released as a single and has, which is quite an exception on this album, a structure of ordinary songs (Stanza, Chorus, Solo), but still is very intriguing and sinister; A Blurred Girl (whose usage of Drum Machines reminds a bit of Suicide); and Touch And Go, which sounds like Ultravox's Mr.X, but of course, preceded the latter, and is much rawer, darker and minimalistic. It would be worth buying this album only for these five.

But the other songs and the bonus material are also worthwile and provide as well an interesting and terrifying journey through a bleack, alternative world, which still has connections to and some pieces of the ordinary old world (e.g. in 030).

Receiving the album can be used both as opportunity of an escapism from as well as an inverted parallelism of the ordinary monotous everyday life and life in general.

So it is especially recommendable for those who have an interest in minimalistic, sinister and desolate "European" electronic music which some classical elements.

The devices and instruments used were mainly synthesizers, drum machines, some taped and distorted noises, and of course, Foxx's unique nasal, resonantless voice, which give it the last touch.

But also, one some tracks, as Foxx later mourned, an "ordinary" E-Bass was used, but I don't find this disturbing in any way, as the E-Bass is only the basis, used in a special manner, and somehow contributes to the specific atmosphere.

Finally, as I tried to suggest with the title, it is a very innovative and "futuristic" album, that did not (and will never) lose its touch, stood very well the test of time, and might also be appealing to people who generally don't listen to this special kind of electronic music.
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