tue 28/11/2023

CD: Ultravox - Brilliant | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Ultravox - Brilliant

CD: Ultravox - Brilliant

Midge Ure and co still have something, albeit something rather grandiose

A nice mug of steaming hot Ultravox

A few years ago the ultimate in post-modern bollocks appeared – Guilty Pleasures, a club night built around the notion that tepid crap from yesteryear is brilliant. So let’s go dig Toto, Go West, Andrew Gold, Dr Hook, any old toe jam. Of course, there’s no reason why anyone shouldn’t dance around to anything, and it’s refreshing, now and then, to give the po-faced Punk Year Zero thing a kick-in, but actively celebrating drivel is another matter.

"Dreadlock Holiday" is not a guilty pleasure, it’s just shite. Move on.

That aside, all music lovers have actual guilty pleasures, records we know are a bit cringey but contain more than enough we like in their make-up. For me, Ultravox have made a few of those songs (the 1980-1988 Midge Ure incarnation, let’s leave John Foxx out of this or things get complicated). “Hymn” was so damned pompous but so yell-able, like a warped national anthem; their nearly-No-One-hit “Vienna” is all wrong and yet…

Brilliant is as good as anything Ultravox have ever done. In short, if you liked their early Eighties prime, you’ll love this, the fabulously doomy robot ballad “Fall”, the monstrous stadium anthem “Satellite”, the vaguely Human League-ish “Change” - well, every song really. They haven’t changed a jot. If anything age and a 28-year break has made them more sternly soaring, more essence-of-Ultravox. The lyrics are nothing to write home about (“Hello, hello, hello, welcome to this world you made/ Hello, hello, hello, it’s raining through your sad parade”) but Ure’s voice is in pliant form, whether roaring like an angry choirboy or balladeering with a sweet falsetto. And the wall of sound that Billie Currie, Chris Cross and Warren Cann create from a trad rock band format plus synthesisers is epic, enormous, emotive tunes that summon ballsy large-scale melodramatics. In the end, it’s down to whether the result is majestic or bombastic. I’d definitely say the latter - but still listen to the odd track on the quiet.

Listen to the song "Brilliant"

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