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on 2 July 2001
John Foxx (born Dennis Leigh) did some remarkable things musically while fronting Ultravox! at the tail end of the 1970s. The band rapidly evolved from a post-punk ensemble into a more refined, electronically-tinged unit over the course of three studio albums. Foxx then decided that he had other designs outside the band's scope and went solo in 1979. Ultravox enlisted Midge Ure to round out the quartet and would go on to critical and popular success. Foxx's musical career over the next five years would prove less glorious, but decidedly more influential in retrospect.
Foxx's early singles like "Underpass" and "Burning Car" conjured images of isolation and alienation, punctuated by a robotic delivery. While the themes would recur frequently, Foxx dropped the affected monotone after his first solo album, "Metamatic" (also the name of his label). However, another artist of the day would grasp onto that identity and make it his own. John Foxx founded all of the elements that would make Gary Numan a superstar.
Perhaps overcompensating for "Metamatic's" mechanical vocals, Foxx's voice veered toward the melodramatic at times on his next two albums, "The Garden" and "The Golden Section". His style had warmed up, with traditional instrumentation introduced back into the mix. Foxx's final album for Virgin, 1985's "In Mysterious Ways", was a more reserved affair, slightly foreshadowing some of his later ambient work. Foxx then took an extended break from music to focus on other artistic pursuits, including photography.
"Modern Art" capably encapsulates Foxx's 20+ years of musical product over 18 tracks, including all of his Virgin singles, samples of his later work (including collaborator Louis Gordon), b-sides and the odd rarity. The remastered sound is exceptional and the packaging and liner notes are most commendable.
If you have never experienced Foxx's work before, this is the perfect starting point (and mightly reasonable pricewise). For longtime admirers, "Modern Art" is the perfect companion to the "Assembly" compilation. And this CD represents essential listening for anyone with an interest in the history and development of electronic music..
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on 4 November 2002
1979: the winter of discontent, the arrival of Thatcher and
the start of a musical movement which created not so much
a wave but something bordering on a tsunami!
Synth-based pop and rock had seen a few milestones along the
way during the seventies: Hot Butter's Popcorn (1972), Kraftwerk's Autobahn (75) and Moroder/Sumner's I Feel Love (77) all took the place by storm and yet synth music was still seen as the province of academics and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
(rest in peace as it's now closed).
Bands like Ultravox, The Human League and Joy Division began
to change this assumption. 1979 was the year zero of synth
music: as punk rock's velocity began to sag (Foxx lyric!) and
council estates across Britain thought ska music was the new beginning (it wasn't and boy does it sound dated now?!), synths
became big-time musically. The intervening years have seen
music technology become mainstream but Foxx was in at the start...
He's a great songwriter and very underated. Metamatic shimmered
with ice-cool visions of a post-apocalyptic world along the
lines of Huxley's Brave New World; the singles Underpass and
No-One Driving are killers. As a thirteen year old kid already
mad on synth music, seeing Foxx on Top Of The Pops doing Underpass helped me make up my mind to be a musician. Cool
wasn't the word!
This album is a great introduction to anyone unaware of his
musical past and it's also useful for all us oldies who have
all the early stuff on vinyl: you can now play it in the car!
What can I say except go and buy this now!
Cheers
Al Ferrier
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on 27 December 2005
Somewhere in my record collection, tucked into the sleeve of the 7" single "Burning Car" is a flexi disk that was issued with that wonderful publication - Smash Hits. "My Face" wasn't my favourite track of John Foxx's, but somehow I really enjoyed listening to it, despite the very crackly media it was produced on (flexi disks are not HiFi!). The last time that flexi disk saw daylight was just over a year ago, when I finally packed away my turntable, having transposed the records I listen to regularly to some form of digital media. Then very recently, I see Modern Art on sale, and cannot believe that A) it has "My Face" included, and B) is on sale for less than five pounds.
I scanned in great detail to ensure the offering was genuine and not release of cover versions by obscure, unheard of artists. I took the plunge and I am not disappointed. If you ever wanted to know the history of John Foxx, it is all here. I have most of the material in some form, but the newer stuff is not something I have kept up with.
The early stuff is all classic synth material. A must for any music journalist to study as part of a very moving period in music's history. I'd call this "classical music" in many ways! "Burning Car" still moves me - it has drama and energy unlike anything of it's era. It is both inspiratinal and chilling. Just think of the technology used to create these sounds and another word springs to mind; Pioneering!
During my fanhood(?) I kind of "lost the faith" shortly after the Golden Section was released. I did buy "In Mysterious Ways" but it never got much play time on my turntable as it seemed way off mark to me. Now that I hear the two tracks from that album on this compilation again: "Stars on Fire" and "Enter the Angel" and after all these years, they have a new sound, and a clever construction that I never appreciated before. Still a bit Euro-pop, but unique nevertheless.
Then I get to the new stuff that I haven't heard before. Sunset Riding is a natural extension of John Foxx's obsession with the Church setting, and if you put this record in the sleeve of the album "The Garden", you'd have a perfect match! Then, we move into something very new. Is it Kraftwerk? Is it Orbital? It has trace elements of many things, and it is something my ears know well, but just can't quite place. I like it though, and it is John Foxx's collaboration with Louis Gordon. It works, and it updates the sound so well.
Then the last two tracks are my flexi disk favourite "My Face" followed by a mild remix of "He's a Liquid". So glad to ave the former in difital format where it really does belong!
You cannot spend five pounds better than on this. I'd have paid a fiver just to have a digital copy of "My Face" to complete the history I wanted, to have all the other amazing stuff thrown in too? Wow!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 October 2008
For those of us that remember a lot of these tracks from the time, this cd is a real winner on a number of fronts.

One. It collects all of John's early singles (tracks 1-12 with exception of '20th Century' were all A sides).

Two. The recordings have all been re-mastered (with supervision by Foxx) so the sound is excellent
throughout.

Three. It includes the hard to find track 'My Face' which was previously only available on a 'Smash Hits' flexidisc 'back in the day'.

Four. The booklet contains an interesting interview with John by Daryl Easlea of Record Collector magazine.

Five. Including towards the end some of John's newer (and probably therefore less well known) material gives fans of primarily his 80's work (like me) considerable food for thought! Tracks like 'The Noise' and 'Nightlife' being especially interesting, merging as they do, John's 80's sound with modern dance floor sounds something that works surprisingly well!

'Modern Art' is not just a good introduction to John's work, but also a real treat for fans with a bit of 'catching up' to do!
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on 5 July 2014
What a fab album - I must get more John Foxx! I got this on a wave of Ultravox nostalgia....I got into them with the "Vienna" album (though I like that track less than most on the album) and got all their best stuff. "U-Vox" was pretty poor.... I got a best-of album to explore their pre-Ure stuff and I really like it. This is terrific.
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on 19 February 2003
John Foxx, the original backbone of Ultravox! until the late 70s before their first namely commercial success with 'Vienna' in 1980, is a genius in this area of music. This album is probably your best bet if you havent bought any of his music before, as it wonderfully portrays his career and shifting sounds. On the first listen I was blown over, as THIS is the sound you've always wanted Ultravox (without the !) to go onto...but they never did go that step further. "Underpass/No-one driving/20th Century/Miles away/Europe after the rain/Like a miracle/The Noise and Nightlife" are all songs that completely over-shadow anything Ultravox has done, I am afraid to say (as I am a huge fan of them). But John produced exactly what your ears want to hear as far as pastoral techno, synth and neo-romantic music goes. My overall favourite on this album is "Nightlife", for its jarring electric blips and truly pounding beat, and it wouldnt sound out of place if it was to be played in some huge nightclub. That track really is what people should dance to, and not this commercial trash we here in our clubs! "Sunset Rising" is truly a beautiful piece along with "Like a miracle", with the chorus really encapsulating the synth genre. I SERIOUSLY advice you to buy this album if you like the music of Ultravox, Visage, The Human League, Kraftwerk etc. It really is the BEST ive heard.
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on 9 April 2006
Back in 2001, a friend of mine recommended John's work - particularly the debut single, "Underpass" which I'd never heard of. So being a synth-pop lover I investigated.
By coincidence, "Modern Art" just so happened to be on the verge of release. So I rushed out and bought it the day it came out. "Underpass" certainly didn't disappoint, likewise with "Burning Car" or "20th Century". Cold, hard electronica with a hint of New Romanticism, but too obscure to fit in with the crowd.
"Modern Art" follow's Foxx's musical evolution from the stark electronica of his debut solo album, "Metamatic" to the commerical warmth of his mid-80s work. Then it leaps over a 10 year silence, to Foxx's 1995 'revival' with the "Shifting City" album, and a taste of things to come with "Night Life" from "The Pleasures Of Electricity", which sees John going back to a darker, minimal retro-electro sound.
"Modern Art" is the perfect introduction to John Foxx's music. It's a musical glimpse of a futuristic world of passion and technology, seen through Foxx's artistic eye. Interesting, obscure and excellent all rolled into one. Though no sooner than you've heard this, you'll want to rush out and buy "Metamatic" or "The Garden".
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on 20 June 2013
I have to say this is a detailed and comprehensive compilation of John Foxx. It has all the early classic singles post Ultravox from Mr Foxx.As a compilation of his fine work this does not disappoint. I thoroughly recommend you buy it.
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on 26 May 2012
Modern Art really is a kind of best-album for John Foxx, as it comprises the long work period of 21 years (1980-2001, with some hiatuses), i.e. all/most of the singles that were released in between (plus one or two b-sides). As Foxx himself described it, it's his higher profile material.

My personal favourites are the Metamatic-era tracks, most of all the plaintive "No One Driving" and the brilliantly dramatic instrumental chorus of "Burning Car", being a non-album single (more uptempo than most of the Metamatic album stuff). A very precious addition is the brilliant "My Face", which wasn't on any album or single, but clearly belongs to the Metamatic-era as well (also more uptempo than the Metamatic album tracks). The alternate (promo only) version of "He's a Liquid" is worth to check out as well (it has a richer sound than the Metamatic version, at least more than the original vinyl and 1993 CD versions).

Unfortunately, the 1980s album after Metamatic and their respective singles don't do hat much to me (not yet); but they do have their earned place on Modern Art nonetheless. I like the optimistic Miles Away with its fanfare-like synth lines, and the original version of "Endlessly" with its rich synths textures (the latter I find slightly superior to the later album or single version). I also like the majestic "Your Dress" and the wistful "Like a Miracle" (the latter vaguely reminds me of certain OMD tracks). But the rest of the 1980s-era singles really don't do that much to me (least of all the In Mysterious Ways tracks).

Also included here are three tracks from John Foxx's then recent collaboration with Louis Gordon, of which I find "The Noise" the most remarkable one.

I really don't care much (not yet) for John Foxx's vast ambient output on albums like Cathedral Oceans, but the excerpt track of "Sunset Rising" is okay for a cooldown and certainly not too long (clocking in just about 2.37 minutes).

All in all, Modern Art is a good glimpse of John Foxx's various single output and good for people who intend to acquaint themselves with the John Foxx musical 'art'work (this was actually my first CD I bought of John Foxx, and I was immediately enthralled, at least with the Metamatic-era tracks). It comes with some careful written liner notes, nice photos and a decently (re-)mastered sound to boot (supervised by Foxx himself).
Recommended.
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on 5 July 2001
Well its all here alright, music made by a pioneer of electronic, the man that Gary Numan asked for his "ok" before he made a major release. From the first solo single "underpass" we traverse thru Foxx' solo career, fantastic Depeche mode like offerings, such as, "Miles away" and good time summer swirl of "Endlessly" boom out from this timely reminder of how different and ahead of his time this chap Dennis Leigh was, we have the Beatlesque "Shifting City" and a song from his his forthcoming offering "The Pleasure of Electricty". It's a pity more people weren't fans first time around, so then, we are served up, Something old, something new, something borrowed but never really blue, buy this, it's a snip.
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