Lost In Wonder (2007)
Its early June, 1985 and John Foxx, cast adrift in the blaze of an English summer, floats ethereally between London and Italy, occasionally taking solid form in The Garden Studio and otherwise demonstrating his preference for being elsewhere.
Despite three singles from his previous offering, The Golden Section, Foxx has by now “drifted off too far”, so far away from the musical mainstream of his contemporaries that he really is not there at all. Which suits his innovative meandering style perfectly. He has by this time given up all hope of satisfying Virgins demand for a commercially saleable product, and by declaring himself totally disillusioned with all that is going on in the world of popular music, dips his fingertips instead into the cool water of artistic freedom.
Disenfranchised, bewildered and without any form to speak of, Foxx is neither one side of paradise or the other. Lost somewhere in that indefinable gap between past and future. Although the artist himself now tends to dismiss this album, his indifference may be a reaction to the prevailing circumstances of its recording rather than any reflection on the album’s musical quality. Far from it, as In Mysterious Ways contains some of his most accomplished work (Morning Glory and Lose All Sense of Time, for example).
And was ever an album titled so aptly to reflect the character of its creator? It’s not for lack of ideas either – compare the delicious sentimentality of the title track with the passionate expressionism of This Side of Paradise, Hiding in Plain Sight and City of Lights, and catch if you can his work with Anne Clarke (Pressure Points) that comes from the same period.
Listening to In Mysterious Ways is like watching clouds. You need to lie on your back somewhere in a grassy meadow and let the shapes drift around over you, taking various forms and hinting at hundreds of others. Lyrically, Foxx is on his best form since Ultravox, and his vocal delivery this time is more convincing. The understated genius of Robin Simons intuitive guitar work, which has become a hallmark of Foxx albums, continues to shine on, despite being criminally condemned to a life of obscurity.
The nine songs on the original release (not including the reprise of Enter The Angel at the end – despite being conceived first) are beautifully structured, almost classically so, in the style of fifties favourites like The Shadow of Your Smile. As so often with works of art, it is what gets left out that provides the key to our understanding. The absence of his cover of this ballad, for example, and his own composition Hanging in The Air from the final pressing speak volumes about where John wanted to go with this project.
He is both writing and singing of love and longing from the heart in celebration of re-awakening and discovery. An angel of one kind or another – in “ruined suit” or gleaming raiment – has certainly entered his life, leading him by the hand into the glimmering sunset. Through some summer door…
If it is difficult to see what John Foxx is trying to prove with this album, that’s because defining his intention is entirely the wrong question to ask.
It is not always necessary to be going in a particular direction, or even to be moving at all. Oft-times in this world we need moments just to stop and to be – even if we do not always know exactly where we are at the time.
In recent years, John Foxx has made something of comeback, riding the crest of a retro-wave on his new electronic projects with Louis Gordon. Reference is often made to the earliest chapters in his cannon, but John Foxx work is best appreciated as a whole, and for its part in that In Mysterious Ways should not be overlooked.
He may have been lost in wonder at the time of its creation and dissolved after its release, but that only adds to its spectral glory.