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John Foxx - Metamatic - LP album cover.jpg
Studio album by
Released18 January 1980
RecordedPathway Studios, London, 1979
ProducerJohn Foxx
John Foxx chronology
The Garden
Singles from Metamatic
  1. "Underpass"
    Released: 10 January 1980
  2. "No-One Driving"
    Released: 21 March 1980
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[1]
Mojo4/5 stars[2]
Q4/5 stars[3]
Smash Hits7½/10[4]
Uncut4/5 stars[5]

Metamatic is the debut solo album by John Foxx, released in 1980. It was his first solo project following his split with Ultravox the previous year. A departure from the mix of synthesizers and conventional rock instrumentation on that band's work, Metamatic was purely electronic in sound.[6] The name 'Metamatic' comes from a painting machine by kinetic artist Jean Tinguely, first exhibited at the Paris Biennial in 1959. The album peaked at #18 on the UK Albums Chart.

Production and style[edit]

Metamatic was recorded at Pathway, a small eight-track studio in Islington, and was engineered by Gareth Jones. Foxx's electronic equipment included ARP Odyssey, an Elka 'String Machine' and a Roland CR-78 drum machine. Several of the synth parts were played by John Wesley-Barker.

Six of the tracks referenced automobiles or motorways, most obviously "Underpass" and "No-One Driving". Foxx re-worked the former track as "Overpass" on the live Subterranean Omnidelic Exotour in 1998[7] (reissued in 2002 as the second of a 2-disc set, The Golden Section Tour + The Omnidelic Exotour); he also re-used its distinctive riff for the track "Invisible Women" on 2001's Pleasures of Electricity with Louis Gordon. The song "He's a Liquid" was influenced by a still from a Japanese horror film depicting a suit draped across a chair in such a way as to suggest that the wearer had liquified; Foxx's lyrics also alluded to the 'fluidity' of human relationships. The final track, "Touch and Go", included psychedelic aspects.

Although Foxx had performed "He's a Liquid" and "Touch and Go" live with Ultravox before leaving the band in 1979, the band was not credited for them on Metamatic.[8] When Ultravox adapted the tune from "Touch and Go" for the song "Mr. X" on Vienna (1980), their first album following Foxx's departure, Foxx was not credited.

Release and aftermath[edit]

Metamatic spent seven weeks in the UK charts, peaking at #18. The album was generally well received by critics and is still cited as his most influential solo release.[9][10]

"Underpass" was released as an edited single a week before the album (length: 3:18), making #31 in the UK charts and appearing on a number of electropop compilations of the time. Its B-side was a non-album instrumental, "Film One". In March 1980 a remix of "No-One Driving" was released as a double single with three other non-album tracks: "Glimmer", "Mr No" and "This City", reaching #32.[citation needed]

In June 1980, Foxx released a single with new songs on both sides, "Burning Car" b/w "20th Century", making #35. He issued one more single-only release in October 1980, the transitional "Miles Away" b/w "A Long Time", which provided a foretaste of the more fully produced sound of his next album, The Garden (1981). All these non-album tracks have appeared on various John Foxx compilations and reissues of Metamatic; the 1993 CD version of the album also included "Young Love", a previously unreleased track recorded in 1979. A 'definitive' two-CD reissue of the album was released in September 2007 which was intended to bring together all the Metamatic-era material, plus previously unavailable tracks, onto one bonus CD. Another re-mastered edition is due to be released as a 3CD Deluxe Edition on the 25th of May, 2018. This will include fifteen instrumentals on disc three, as the new reissue project grew to forty-nine tracks across three CDs.

The stark electronic sound of Metamatic was different from Foxx's previous style. However Foxx's material recorded with Louis Gordon, such as Shifting City, Pleasures of Electricity and Crash and Burn, bear more resemblance to the album than to his subsequent 1980s releases, and more so Foxx's recent work with John Foxx And The Maths which relies heavily on the use of analogue electronic instruments.

Foxx's record label and his official website are also named Metamatic.

Metal Beat interview[edit]

An in-depth interview with Foxx by Steve Malins about the making of Metamatic is the subject of a double-CD album "Metal Beat" released in 2007. The interview includes extracts from demos of No-One Driving, Touch and Go and Like A Miracle and an extended version of Plaza, together with some early experiments by Foxx with drum machines and analogue synthesisers and tracks retrieved from two 1980 tapes marked "music for film" and "instrumentals". A 30-second piece entitled Jane is also included.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by John Foxx.

  1. "Plaza" – 3:52
  2. "He's a Liquid" – 2:59
  3. "Underpass" – 3:53
  4. "Metal Beat" – 2:59
  5. "No-One Driving" – 3:45
  6. "A New Kind of Man" – 3:38
  7. "Blurred Girl" – 4:16
  8. "030" – 3:15
  9. "Tidal Wave" – 4:14
  10. "Touch and Go" – 5:33

1993 reissue bonus tracks[edit]

  1. "Young Love" – 3:10
  2. "Film One" – 3:58
  3. "20th Century" – 3:06
  4. "Miles Away" – 3:17
  5. "A Long Time" – 3:49
  6. "Swimmer 1" – 4:06

2001 reissue bonus tracks[edit]

  1. "Film One" – 3:58
  2. "Glimmer" – 3:33
  3. "Mr. No" – 3:14
  4. "This City" – 3:03
  5. "20th Century" – 3:06
  6. "Burning Car" – 3:12
  7. "Miles Away" – 3:17

2007 reissue bonus disc[edit]

  1. "Film One"
  2. "This City"
  3. "To Be With You"
  4. "Cinemascope"
  5. "Burning Car"
  6. "Glimmer"
  7. "Mr No"
  8. "Young Love"
  9. "20th Century"
  10. "My Face"
  11. "Like a Miracle" (alternative version)
  12. "A New Kind of Man" (alternative version)
  13. "He's a Liquid" (alternative version)
  • "To Be With You" and "Cinemascope" were created by sampling and arranging audio clips from material previously recorded with analogue equipment.

2014 Record Store Day white vinyl reissue[edit]

Track listing as per the original 1980 vinyl issue but in new gatefold sleeve with artwork featuring rare images and reconstructions.


Keyboards used on the album include the Minimoog, ARP Odyssey, clavinet, Elka Rhapsody 610, piano, Farfisa string synth, and Hammond organ.


  1. ^ a b Bush, John. "Metamatic – John Foxx". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  2. ^ "John Foxx: Metamatic". Mojo: 120. 2007. [W]hat strikes most is how uncompromisingly minimalist the (almost) all-synth musical textures are.
  3. ^ "John Foxx: Metamatic". Q (182): 147. October 2001.
  4. ^ Starr, Red (7–20 February 1980). "Albums". Smash Hits: 31.
  5. ^ "John Foxx: Metamatic". Uncut: 102. 2007. In 1980, this was what the future was supposed to sound like... Foxx was smarter than Numan and colder than Japan.
  6. ^ "John Foxx The Quiet Man". Ondarock, by Matteo Meda
  7. ^ John Foxx (2002): The Golden Section Tour + The Omnidelic Ecotour liner notes
  8. ^ Warren Cann & Jonas Warstad (1997). "Ultravox: The Story - Warren Cann interviewed by Jonas Warstad": p.41
  9. ^ "John Foxx, Pressure Point, Brighton". 2006-08-02.
  10. ^ barcodexl. "Barcode interview". Archived from the original on 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2011-11-11.

External links[edit]