thu 30/05/2024

CD: John Foxx and the Maths – The Shape of Things | reviews, news & interviews

CD: John Foxx and the Maths – The Shape of Things

CD: John Foxx and the Maths – The Shape of Things

The electronic pop pioneer is still plugged in

Do the Maths: John Foxx returns in captivatingly sparse style

I decided to listen to the new album by former Ultravox frontman John Foxx on a trip to buy some louvre doors at a branch of Homebase. I thought the journey to the city's edge industrial estate via flyovers and concrete spur roads would provide the appropriate scenery for this master of Ballardian urban alienation. I was not disappointed. Well, I was actually. They didn't have louvre doors in the right size. The Shape of Things, on the other hand, was a perfect fit.

From the opening track “Spirus”, in which an almost funky riff morphs into a synthesiser lament, Foxx has skilfully tracked back to his early influences. Before Ultravox went mega without him, they worked with Brian Eno and his ambient sensibility is present and correct on chilly odes such as "Unrecognised". But this is an album packed with proper tunes as well as atmosphere. Foxx's vocals might sound as detached as ever, but he also demonstrates an ear for an infectious melody on “Tides” and the elegant "Vapour Trails", which catch him slotting neatly into a gap between Gary Numan and David Sylvian.

This is not just a siren song for times long gone though. Foxx, who these days divides his time between music and lecturing, has collaborated here with Ben Edwards, an aficionado of vintage synths who has links with newer bands such as Tunng and the folktronica scene. Foxx always was a bit of a futurist and after a mere three decades the music world may have finally caught up with him. It is no surprise that his fan club includes The Orb. Electronic music, currently enjoying another resurgence, owes him a considerable debt. While it would be easy to dismiss The Shape of Things as an exercise in nostalgia it also feels eerily like an album very much about the now rather than an album about the past.

Watch John Foxx perform "He's a Liquid"


After a mere three decades the music world may have finally caught up with him


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters