Now that John Foxx appears to be getting more of the credit he deserves for helping shape the present day’s electronic music, his movements are followed with ever greater interest. Now teaming up with the like minded Benge, known here as ‘The Maths’, he manages the delicate balancing act of looking backwards and forwards at the same time.
Foxx’s deceptively mild exterior has always masked a fiercely passionate character, which makes itself known here, Interplay starting out with confident and upfront tracks Shatterproof and Catwalk. The lyrics are telling, the former chastising its subject as it proclaims, “you don’t like your medicine, you’re not shatterproof”. The gothic undertones of the latter are right up Foxx’s street, with a vivid description of how his model “could pass through the eye of a needle, she’s so vain”.
Having set out their stall Foxx and Benge reach for greater heights. These are fully scaled with Watching A Building On Fire, Ladytron‘s Mira Aroyo shadowing the vocalist through a remarkably intense piece of music, laced with latent horror. Contrasting with this are the more optimistic sentiments of Summerland, its optimistic chorus one of several memorable melodies Foxx brings through his vocoder.
Elsewhere there are moments of greater intimacy, found in closing track The Good Shadow and the title track, where Foxx finds more intense emotion to remind us he still cuts it as a vocalist. The subtle ambience of the electronic backdrop is finely wrought, contrasting nicely with some of the coruscating sounds used early on in the album.
Lyrically he remains preoccupied with some of his favourite subjects, those being architecture, travel, mechanics and robotics, but none of this music feels particularly forced or recycled when it returns to dwell on these familiar topics. Only The Running Man sounds like an old track given new clothes, its title reminding us of the predictions of gloom in the film of the same name, but its melody failing to fully convince.
That is a mere side note, however, for Interplay is a consistently strong piece of work, as good as anything Foxx ever wrote when striking out on his own in the early 1980s. That he should be more relevant now than he was then is perhaps no surprise, but it is a welcome truth indeed.