Studio album by John Foxx
Released 17 January 1980
Recorded Pathway Studios, London 1979-80
Genre New wave, Electronic
Length 38:24
Label Virgin
Producer John Foxx
John Foxx chronology
The Garden
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[1]

Metamatic is an album by John Foxx, released in 1980. It was his first solo album following his split with Ultravox the previous year. A departure from the textured mix of synthesizers and conventional instruments on Systems of Romance, his last album with the band, Metamatic's hard-edged electronica was more akin to Kraftwerk's The Man-Machine (1978), Gary Numan's The Pleasure Principle (1979), and early Human League. The name 'Metamatic' comes from a painting machine by kinetic artist Jean Tinguely, first exhibited at the Paris Biennial in 1959.


Production and style

Recorded in what the composer described as "an eight-track cupboard in Islington",[2] Metamatic was engineered by then-unknown Gareth Jones. Foxx's electronic equipment included ARP Odyssey, an Elka 'String Machine' and a Roland CR-78 drum machine. His keyboard skills were rudimentary at the time, and several of the synth parts were played for him by John Wesley-Barker.[3]

Regarding the album's air of clinical artiness, Foxx later confessed to "reading too much J.G. Ballard" and "imagining I was the Marcel Duchamp of electropop".[2] Half a dozen 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[4] (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 inspired 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.[5] The final track, "Touch and Go", exhibited psychedelic touches that would increasingly recur in his 1980s work.

Foxx had performed "He's a Liquid" and "Touch and Go" live with Ultravox before leaving the band in 1979. Drummer Warren Cann, for one, appeared to consider them to be Ultravox, rather than John Foxx, numbers and noted that the band did not receive any credit for them on Metamatic.[6] Notwithstanding, 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

Metamatic spent seven weeks in the UK charts, peaking at #18. Though Foxx was accused in some quarters at the time of imitating Gary Numan – ironically in light of the inspiration Numan publicly admitted to taking from the Foxx-led Ultravox – the album was generally well received by critics and is still cited as his most influential solo release.[7][8]

"Underpass" was released as an edited single a week before the album (length: 3:18), making #35 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 with three other non-album tracks, "Glimmer", "This City" and "Mr No", reaching #32.

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 two-CD reissue of the album was released in September 2007 that collected most Metamatic-era music, plus previously unavailable tracks, onto one bonus CD.

For many years Metamatic's stark electronic sound made it something of an aberration in the John Foxx catalogue. However Foxx's recent material with Louis Gordon, Shifting City, Pleasures of Electricity and Crash and Burn, bear more resemblance to the album than to his subsequent 1980s releases. Foxx's record label and his official website are also named Metamatic.

Track listing

All songs 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

  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

  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

  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" are "sampled and re-assembled from ideas and fragments found on cassette using only analogue gear"[9]


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


  1. ^ Allmusic review
  2. ^ a b John Foxx (1992). Assembly CD liner notes
  3. ^ "About Me - John Wesley Barker | Composer, Musician, Teacher & Lecturer". John Wesley Barker. Retrieved 2011-11-11. 
  4. ^ John Foxx (2002): The Golden Section Tour + The Omnidelic Ecotour liner notes
  5. ^ ""A Kind of Wave" French TV interview". Retrieved 2011-11-11. 
  6. ^ Warren Cann & Jonas Warstad (1997). "Ultravox: The Story - Warren Cann interviewed by Jonas Warstad": p.41
  7. ^ The Argus (2 August 2006)
  8. ^ barcodexl. "Barcode interview". Retrieved 2011-11-11. 
  9. ^ Metamatic Deluxe Edition CD liner notes

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