Review : Ultravox – Brilliant

It has been awhile since the last album by Messrs Ure, Cann, Currie and Cross collectively as Ultravox. It is also true I am a bigger fan of the band’s first three albums under guiding light of John Foxx. I also witnessed the reformation tour back in 2009 where I was actually less than impressed with their performance to be honest. So I approached this review with some trepidation to say the least but I always have an open mind to new sounds.Well the new album kicked off with ‘Live‘ the proceedings reminiscent of something from their Quartet album. Heavier with a beefy chorus which is coolly controlled by Warren Cann’s drums. This then flows into ‘Flow‘ with the lyrics “sometimes I’ll try and sometimes I fall“, sums it up as they do try and sometimes they did land safely. I did particularly like the sparse keyboards during the instrumental break. Next we have the title and lead single ‘Brilliant‘ and that is exactly how to describe it, simply a classic. Vintage Midge Ure vocals with a cascading chorus line that will please their patiently waiting fans.

Change‘ is a far more electronic affair, actually closer to the current works of their former maestro Mr. Foxx’s current output. Add to it the synthesisers by Billy Currie which do nod to Kraftwerk’s more robotic output on Man Machine album. The dance beat of ‘Rise‘ also reminds me of their follow-up album Computer World, with Midge’s vocals being stretched to the limit. ‘Remembering‘ is the first ballad on the disc but unlike previous classics this really fails to get to started and this is no way near being in the same class as their swan song ‘Vienna‘.Things look up on ‘Hello‘ when they bring back the power sounds you associate with them. They use all their trademarks with the rasping piano and driving rhythm section where Chris Cross‘ bass compliments Midge’s guitar solos. The second ballad comes in the shape of ‘One‘ and this one is far better. Minimal in sound and softly sung which then builds as it progresses along. Next yet another ballad ‘Fall‘ and they do exactly that with this. “and I can never give in“, maybe they should stick to their rocky side more but you can not fault them for trying.

As if they have heard my last request we get ‘Lie‘ which probably is their hardest side displayed in this collection of songs. Very radio friendly, a virtuoso guitar middle and a sing-along chorus. The frenetic ‘Satellite‘ rushes up behind to grab your senses. Billy Currie’s strings come into play here which fits the lyrics perfectly “do do do what you know“. It all draws to a close with ‘Contact‘ which is yet another ballad and is all to mushy for me with its only saving grace the excellent violin intervention by Billy near the end.

I was sceptical when I saw every song title was just one word in length. Considering my last encounter with them this is an improvement. Brilliant in places but very dull in others. Less ballads please next time and keep to their bread and butter of delivering a bouncy tune. Saying that it is good to see them back together and lets hope this gives the seeds for further new songs for another album. 6/10 Hopeful next time.

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About Stevo Music Man

Music fan (Worked in music 79-92, gigs, collector, Indie DJ) Football (LCFC Season ticket), Travel, Read, Swim, Cycle & Internet.
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9 Responses to Review : Ultravox – Brilliant

  1. Paul Bennett says:

    i haven’t got mine yet, which concert are you going to

  2. Anonymous says:

    It´s hard to believe that time has come…for this one, but here it is – and what a masterpiece!! I find elements of the past wrapped in the sound of Ultravox today. And once again Ultravox change the music scene, as they did back then. No doubt they still have something to offer to the music scene and once again set the standard. How many bands have actually done this in their career?? Honestly – it´s been decades since I listened to a album with this joy and pleasure. Thanks you guys, we love you!

  3. pat says:

    Why not the new ULTRAVOX? Is the band so far away from today? La voix de Midge manque de punch mais les mélodies sont là, isn’t ? Soyons “fair play”…

  4. Pingback: German Review : Album: Ultravox - Brilliant | nachgebloggt

  5. You are far too kind sir. I’ve listened to this about five times in the last week and I am trying to decide whether this or “UVOX” is the worst offense. Since “Live” and “Flow” are surprisingly good perhaps I’ll give the nod to this, though it falls apart quickly afterward. Where the occasional muscular songs manifest themselves, they are often scuttled by the terrible vocals from Ure where he sounds like sounds like a herniated gnome on a speaker phone in the next room! What was he thinking? And the production on his vocals is just as bad. Speaking of poor sonics, the mastering of this CD is the worst I’ve heard yet; a real casualty of the loudness wars. The drums, in particular, sound like redlined garbage. Would I see them live? Yes. Never having had the occasion in 32 years of fandom would mean I have to, since missing that “Vienna” tour in September 1980 is one of my life’s regrets. Even so, there’s every chance that live, some of these songs could rise above the horrifying studio decisions that plague this album. Even so, I am doing a career-long review of the albums of Ultravox at my blog currently. When I get to this one at the end, the kool-aid drinking fans’ knives will probably be out. That they had the temerity to release this following two of the best John Foxx albums ever smacks of hubris, as if the title weren’t indication enough.

  6. postpunkmonk says:

    I was recently listening to Scott Walker’s “The Drift” and it hit me like a ton of bricks! Midge Ure is trying to sing like Scott Walker did on his last two albums on “Brilliant!” The big difference? Scott Walker is singing in a strangulated voice far from his confident baritone because not only is he attempting to leave his early fame in the past, but because he is crafting monumental albums of existential horror that will reverberate for years whereas Midge Ure is doing the same old stuff. Never discount the influence of Walker on Ure. Not only did he clone Walkers’s arrangement of “No Regrets” just a few years later, substituting synths for cynical session pros, but “The Electrician” was a big influence of “Vienna.” The former is a harrowing and poetic account of why and how a man can torture another man and the latter is “just a holiday romance.”

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