Album Review: Ultravox - Brilliant

12 June 2012 | 11:26 am | Ross Clelland

Clutching for times past is probably understandable. But sadly, it’s often dated, or worse, a faded pastiche.

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Oh, that it was. Those who can remember back that far, or have the historical knowledge, will know there were really two original Ultravoxes (Ultravoxii?). John Foxx's late-'70s tenure made technological-flavoured and often challenging music, but most will know – and have a rightful affection for – the Midge Ure-helmed era, where the electronics held sway, and they made impossibly stylish and grand pop music cradling his rich burr of a voice. Vienna was not just their best song; it may well be the high water mark of the whole New Romantic genre.

Things naturally faltered, various members – notably not Ure – tried to keep it going. Not much honoured the name. But, things being what they are, they eventually reconvene to try and recapture past glories. Most of the elements seem present. The electronic beds are lush, every track seems to announce itself with a fanfare of synthesised strings or brass, and Ure's tones might not quite have the power of 1984, but still have a certain gravitas – particularly when offering up lyrics of “paths of glory” or “storm-tossed tides”.

Clutching for times past is probably understandable. But sadly, it's often dated, or worse, a faded pastiche. There are moments it is a satisfying echo rather than a hollow one – opener Live a call to some grand struggle, while the title track has some arch grandeur. Softer moments may fare better – Change and Remembering have the nostalgia many would seek, even in the titles. But overall, these will be the songs you endure while waiting for Dancing With Tears In My Eyes or the true glory that is Vienna when the obligatory reunion tour occurs.