Wednesday, September 24, 2008


ULTRAVOX! CD (Island)

Yer probably wondering why I'm reviewing this 'un. Especially considering how today's item in question is not only thirty-plus-years old (which, considering the music that has come out since then, is nothing to exactly sneeze at!) and from a group that I have not been known to mention let along write much about (save for a pretty good bootleg I once chanced upon), but ya gotta remember that back when Ultravox! (and ULTRAVOX!) had hit the "new release" bins they were considered just as much a part of the ponk experience as alla those other hefty-hyped acts (me thinking Ramones/Runaways/Blowzie) that were vying for our hard-trust funded monies. Besides, having the Eno name associated with it didn't hurt much at all either, especially considering what an over-worked self-hyping monolith that guy could have been back then.

Being a tightwad at heart and not that rabid an Eno follower didn't cinch it for me...what eventually did was a letter that Ultravox!'s drummer Warren Cann had written to WHO PUT THE BOMP! that got printed in their British Invasion issue! That particular note was (believe-it-or-not!) in praise of none other than Lester Bangs' Troggs article, and in showing what kind of a fan of rock music and Bangs that he could be Cann's missive was dripping in all sorts of brash superlatives culminating in (if I remember correctly) a boast of how Cann himself was more'n willing to become part of the solution not the problem as the member of a band that was gonna toss all of that early-seventies miasma that had been going down during the burnout days of Nixon on its pointed little head! And what's more, the name of the band that Cann was to be associated with was going to begin with the definitive article "the" unlike the reams of Bread and Steams that were going down during those times!!! Well, Ultravox! certainly doesn't have a "the" before their moniker but given the group's love for the Velvets/Iggy/Roxy axis of proto-whatever smart rock I think most of the listening public conduit to such soundscapades at the time were more or less willing to forgive 'em for this noteworthy faux pas. (But that still didn't stop Bangs from having a feh opinion of Cann's group which only goes to show you what a sourpuss Mr. B could have been at times!)

Fawattittizz... ULTRAVOX! is pleasing enough enough, or at least as pleasing as any $1.99 cutout at Mason's would be for kiddoes on depression wages starving for something at least a li'l bit current. Fortunately the electronics (which I guess were a big selling point with this album) don't bog you down like they would once new wave turned gnu wave as Bill Shute would say, and a good portion of the melodies displayed here are downright appetizing, mixing everything from sixties garage rock ro early Roxy Music and British suds into a halfway decent sound/substance mesh. Speaking of early-Roxy, I can hear a bit of that group's debut in Ultravox's, with perhaps a little dab of classic Stooges and old Velvets tossed in helping to make everything a whole lot tastier not only for the fence-sitting punk types but the King Crimson followers who were enticed by the presence of Eno on this 'un. Even the poof-y John Foxx is OK as a frontman especially on the amphetamine-influenced "Saturday Night in the City of the Dead" where he spurt-sings the words in one of the best displays of speedo-delivery since "Subterannean Homesick Blues" or even Debris' "Female Tracks". However, given the artistic pretense (not always a bad thing!) of such a band you just know that Ultravox! weren't gonna make it outta the seventies alive, and like all of those other "Save The World" bands you kinda got the feeling that they and their offspring were gonna create some of the worst dross to ever grace our ears once the decadent seventies segued into the squeaky-clean eighties. But catch 'em while they're alive like they are here and you'll probably wish you didn't pass 'em over in favor of ELO 8-tracks either!

2 comments:

MoeLarryAndJesus said...

Aw, come on. These guys always sucked.

Anonymous said...

The "Rockwrok/Hiroshima Mon Amour" 7" and "Young Savage" 7"s definitely don't suck. In fact they're pretty great, raw, and rocking. Haven't listened to this LP enough to defend it. Imaginary Icons from NYC covered "Rockwrok" and The Church did a much smoother, but enjoyable cover of "Hiroshima MonAmour", which I heard first. Pax, PhilthyRex