Thursday, 7 June 2012

REVIEW: Ultravox - Brilliant

When groups from the 1980's reform and make new music, you can usually expect an attempt to return to the sound of the band's glory years but embellished with a "modern twist" and inevitably featuring a more mature tone to the vocals. These cliches are all true when it comes to an album like the new one from Ultravox. Their first album in 18 years, and the first to feature the "classic" line up in 28 years, the inaccurately named 'Brilliant' consists of twelve single-word song titles and music that mostly fails to match the quality of their 80's output. Out of the dozen songs, only five really hit the mark. 

The opening 'Live' begins promisingly but soon slips into a dreary chorus that aims for power but falls rather flat, while the bombastic synth-rock of 'Flow' with its U2-esque guitars, is slightly better but still quite unremarkable. The title track is a definite improvement, delivering a kinetic 80's pop arrangement and providing the album with its first memorable tune, although the lyrics still leave a fair bit to be desired. 'Change' is also pretty good, built on an addictive electro beat and dramatic synths while melodically hinting at Kraftwerk's 'The Model' towards the end of the chorus, while the pompous 'Rise' is weak electro power pop with another forgettable melody.

'Remember' is a creeping piano-led moment that provides the most solemn moment here, before 'Hello' returns to dark machine-fuelled claustrophobia, benefitting from its simplicity in contrast to the album's more overdone moments. 'One' is a sparse and emotionally fragile album highlight, while 'Fall' is a murky and unsuccessful attempt at recreating 'Vienna''s slow pulsing arrangement but with a doom-laden atmosphere. 'Lie' is rather boring, 'Satellite' is simply Ultravox by-numbers and ending the album with a whimper is 'Contact', a dull song that doesn't really go anywhere. 

This critical assessment of the new Ultravox LP may sound a little harsh, but this is an opinion from a fan of their music who owns quite a lot of their records despite only being born in 1984. Like a lot of other people I am glad this group are back together and releasing new music, whether it turns out to be good or bad. This album doesn't turn out to be a great comeback, but it isn't hopeless enough to be called a true disaster. At least they're trying, and at least they're doing it for the right reasons since they know this record isn't going to be setting the charts on fire. They are creating new music because they still feel that they have more to offer and making music is what they love doing. Next time hopefully they'll do better. 

Maybe the truly hardcore devotees will enjoy this album more, but even the most loyal of fans will know they're kidding themselves if they claim that this is up there with their best work. 5.2


  1. Dear Mr. Scott, I find it quite pathetic and useless your review on the latest album of Ultravox Brilliant, your comments are expected and typical of shallow careerists babies who like write more crap for their pathetic thirst of fame and why someone beats the hands to inflate your IO ! So please take another instead of expressing superficial judgments about people who make music and have more experience of life and music much then you! and the play music much before ,when you was not yet a mass of something to be defined body! Please do not take the trouble to answer me because I will not answer to a kind of person that throw the stone and then apologizes, hypocrisy person!, go to sell apples, quack!

    1. Maybe I should teach this person how to write in English.