Thursday, September 30, 2010

Burning Car by John Foxx

While Ultravox become a household name equivalent to Duran Duran in the early 80s (at least in England; their exposure in the US was much more limited) casual fans probably don't remember that the Midge Ure helmed Ultravox years didn't even start until after the band had released three albums already with a different lead singer/frontman, Dennis Leigh, also known as John Foxx. And although Foxx-led Ultravox was commercially a dicey scenario, they were actually hugely influential in the development of the synthpop movement and the dark, cold, futurist sound that encapsulated much of it's original incarnation. Gary Numan himself was effusive in his praise and acknowledgement of the debt he owed to John Foxx, and Foxx's final album with Ultravox, the evocatively titled Systems of Romance, is considered by many to be the first synthpop album ever recorded, following on the prototype heels of some of their own earlier songs like "Hiroshima Mon Amour". Under Midge Ure, they migrated into similar yet more accessible New Romantic territory, but John Foxx continued on solo, and his first project was even more futurist, cold and impersonal than Systems of Romance, his masterpiece Metamatic (which barely squeeks into scope for this blog chronologically, with a January 1980 release.)

Foxx was unfortunate in that his Metamatic didn't really capture the public's interest, while contemporary (and somewhat protege) Gary Numan's The Pleasure Principle did with almost the exact same sound. I remember years ago reading one reviewer contrasting Numan's "android" image with Foxx's "anorexic hairdresser" which may have been part of the reason.

In any case, I always liked Metamatic a lot; moreso than Numan's work, actually. The song I selected for today is from the same era, but doesn't actually belong on that album though (except as a bonus song on CD re-releases.) "Burning Car" was an off-album single that would have fit perfectly on Metamatic (and in fact would have been one of the best songs on the album) but with a little bit punchier beat, and with a really lush, soaring synthline over the top. I've always been a sucker for lush, soaring synthlines, and this is one of the best ones out there.

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