From Vienna with love – Ultravox Brilliant Album Review

Ultravox were a chart topping electronic rock band in the 1980s. Best known for their atmospheric smash hit single, “Vienna” (with its equally standout video), it was famously kept off the top spot in the charts by joke single, “Shaddap You Face” by Joe Dolce.

The band, ¬†fronted by Scots singer guitarist Midge Ure,¬†have largely been forgotten since their appearance at Live Aid in 1985. Ure of course was the co-writer of the Band Aid single, “Do They Know it’s Christmas”, and co-organiser of Live Aid despite both accolades being mostly associated with Sir Bob Geldof.

Ultravox reformed for a one off tour in 2010 and it was way more successful than they could ever have imagined. So much so that they went back into the studio and have just released their first new recordings in 26 years.

Ultravox Brilliant Album Review

Bravely calling the album “Brilliant”, a title surely as close to a red rag to the critics as it is possible to get, they retread old sounds with new modern Celtic and Far Eastern themes. The heavy bass synth signature style is still there, and Ure’s vocal range seems to have improved over the last quarter century. Tuneful choruses, melancholy vocals, swirling guitars, and plenty of echo will certainly please the fans.

Ultravox Brilliant Album Review

“Live” starts things off to stadium anthem proportions with instantly recognisable piano notes and guitar tones. “Flow” has nods to U2 and title track “Brilliant” has a chorus that burns itself into your brain and a very hummable keyboard melody. “Change” reminds me of “Model” by Kraftwork but reinvented for 2012, and “Hello” gestures towards Pet Shop Boys. “Lie” and “Satellite” are a couple of bombastic up tempo guitar and synth layered epics.

Whether this will usher in a whole generation of new fans I am not sure but it has made me happy. Certainly some critics have predictably risen to the bait and labeled Brilliant as anything but. I bet Ure and the boys did that deliberately, knowing that the lazy critic would fall for their trap and take the easy route to pan rather than to praise. After all is a critic going to feel like a critic saying an album called “Brilliant” is brilliant?

But I’m not a professional critic and so I have nothing to worry about in declaring “Brilliant” to be brilliant.

Over to you: Have you heard this album? Is it a brilliant return? What are your favourite old groups that have reformed for the modern age? Should they stay in retirement or have their revivals been inspiring?

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