John Foxx & The Maths - The Shape Of Things

Another compelling collection of clever electronic pop.

Label: Metamatic Records

Rating: 8

Synthpop pioneer John Foxx’s career in electronic music started over 30 years ago when he was a founding member of Ultravox. In that time, he has established himself as one of the genre’s most interesting, progressive and venerated characters and someone who has been impossible to pin down. Foxx’s output since returning to music after a 12 year sabbatical had been very much avant garde and experimental in nature, but last year’s ‘Interplay’ was very much a return to electro-pop. Follow up ‘The Shape Of Things’ carries on the mix of minimal electronica and icy pop melodies while adding a more emotional personal touch.

John Foxx & The Maths is ostensibly a collaboration between Foxx and London musician and producer Benge, and there is no doubt they work extremely well together. ‘The Shape Of Things’ is, like the debut, rooted in analogue synths and drum machines. The sound is stark and minimal, early eighties electro-pop and Kraftwerk are two obvious reference points. There is a great combination between the retro and the futuristic as Foxx’s synth-pop classicism aligns with Benge’s progressive production skills.

There is definitely a sense of darkness present in the duo’s music, in particular on the gothic ‘Rear View Mirror’ and the creepily unsettling ‘Talk’. ‘The Shape Of Things’ is a deep, emotionally affecting work. There is a wistful tone to much of the album as the now 63-year-old Foxx appears to look back on his life with a mix of longing for the past and pessimism for the future, best exemplified in grandiose ballad ‘Unrecognised.’

There are, however, brighter moments amidst the gloom. ‘Vapour Trails’ has a supremely vibrant and effusive vocal, and ‘Tides’ is warm, enveloping and uplifting as Foxx proclaims that he will ride “Those wild eternal tides, again and again.’ The album does end on a darker note, which is perhaps fitting, with the disturbing sci-fi of ‘Shadow Of His Former Self’.

Over 30 years since his first excursions in the field, John Foxx is still at the very top of his game; his collaboration with Benge and The Maths has crystallised all that experience and craft into some particularly special pop music, and ‘The Shape Of Things’ is another compelling collection of clever electronic pop.