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REVIEW: ULTRAVOX – BRILLIANT

THIS IS NOT RETRO SAYS...

The first fifteen seconds of opening track 'Live' leave you in absolutely no doubt that this is Ultravox, they're back and they're on extraordinarily good form. 'Live' employs every trick in the band's book: it's solid, upbeat and epic, it's sprinkled with their electronic and string sounds, and it's underpinned by a pop-hit catchy chorus featuring their trademark echoing vocals. As an opening track 'Live' sets the bar high for what's still to come, and as the album continues it quickly becomes clear that 'Brilliant' has classic Ultravox DNA running through the veins of every single track.

The mid-paced second track, 'Flow', although distinctively Ultravox, carries something of U2's epic rock sound and then we're onto 'Brilliant', the title track and the first single from this album. Starting with a oddly muted vocal 'Brilliant' is an ideal first single, very much a statement of intent for what else is to come. It's classic Ultravox in every way, from the solid guitar sounds overlaid with an understated sheen of electronics, to the epic drama of the lyrics and vocals.

'Change' steers the album into darker territory, slowing down the pace of the record as it couples a dramatic electronic beat with a rather menacing vocal that lightens only slightly as it reaches each chorus with the faintest of echoes of Kraftwerk's 'The Model'. The electronic mood is sustained on Rise', the most overtly electronic track of the album so far, which picks up the pace again before the synths swirl out of control, a dramatic introduction for the next track, 'Remembering', which is constructed around a slow and melancholy piano refrain and slowly blossoms into an impressively wistful and introspective ballad.

There's something of the Pet Shop Boys in 'Hello', it doesn't sound like them as such but there's something in the the way the spoken introduction explodes into the song, something to do with the electronic string sounds that underpin the chorus, and something to do with the way the track ends in an electronic explosion into silence. The jagged guitar and bombastic synths however, set off against an elegant piano riff, are a definite nod to Ultravox's rockier influences.

The next two tracks - 'One' and 'Fall' - slow the pace of the album right down, the emotion in Midge Ure's impassioned vocal performance in 'One' giving way to the gentle electronic pulses, crackles and chimes of 'Fall', a moody, sophisticated and deceptively simple song. The upbeat 'Lie' comes next in stark contract to the melancholy of the previous two tracks, but still tinged with sadness, despite its distinctively epic Ultravox sound.

The exuberance of 'Satellite' with it's haunting middle-eastern melody is a far more straightforward proposition, an upbeat number with echoes of the epic grandeur of Simple Minds. Then, all too soon, the album finishes on a curiously downbeat note with 'Contact', a slow, atmospheric and haunting track which leaves you wanting more… which may be exactly the point!

Ultravox may not be breaking much new ground with 'Brilliant' but would we want them to? What they have delivered is an assured, accomplished and extremely enjoyable album that plays to the band's many strengths, and as such it's already a definite contender for our album of the year.

ULTRAVOX - Brilliant

WE'LL GIVE IT...

TRACKLISTING

Live Again / Flow / Brilliant / The Change / Rise / Remembering / Hello / This One / Fall / Let It Lie / Satellite / Contact

RELEASE DETAILS

'Brilliant' will be released on May 28th (June 5th in the USA) 2012 on CD and via download.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Please rate this release below, and share your thoughts in the comments section further down the page.

* * * * ½ FROM 16 VOTES
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CONTENT ADDED: May 14th, 2012

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2 COMMENTS
  1. ADDED BY m1active on Jun 3rd, 2012

    Excellent album. A great blend of classic Ultravox here. From the opening track to the closing of the album. A must for any Ultravox fan and neutrals alike.


  2. ADDED BY rahoward on Apr 4th, 2013

    This Album is a great return of form, by this British Classic Synth Pop/Rock Group.
    The only disappointment, is not to do with the album, but in the way a lot of music is working in these days and times, of not releasing enough singles and music videos from the artist's new studio album.
    This is a very important case in point, because Ultravox were pioneers of the music video art form, and for a band who have been away from the scene in 17 years, they owed it not just to themselves, but their fans in releasing more music video singles; from this very impressive come-back album.


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