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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Ultravox - Quartet~, Lament*

Name: Ultravox
Album(s): Quartet~, Lament*
Year(s): 1982, 1984
Style: Dark Wave, Synth, Electronic
Similar Bands: OMD, Depeche Mode, Human League, Art in America, Simple Minds, Gary Numan, Pet Shop Boys, Sparks
One-Word Review: Pulsating Count Synth-ula~ Anthemic Sterile Tundra*
Based Out Of: London, UK
Label: Chrysalis
 Quartet~ - Cover & Record
 Quartet~ - Back & Record
 Lament - Cover, Sleeve, Record
Lament - Back, Sleeve, Record
Quartet ~(1982)

  1. Reap the Wild Wind 3:49
  2. Serenade 5:05
  3. Mine for Life 4:44
  4. Hymn 5:46 /
  5. Visions in Blue 4:38
  6. When the Scream Subsides 4:17
  7. We Came to Dance 4:14
  8. Cut & Run 4:18
  9. The Song (we go) 3:56

Lament *(1984)

  1. White China 3:50
  2. One Small Day 4:30
  3. Dancing With Tears in My Eyes 4:39
  4. Lament 4:40
  5. Man of Two Worlds 4:27
  6. Heart of the Country 5:05
  7. When the Time Comes 4:56
  8. A Friend I Call Desire 5:09

Album Review (1-10): ~7.5

Members & Other Bands:
Midge Ure - Vox, Guitar~* (Silk, The Rich Kids, Thin Lizzy, Visage, Band Aid, X-Perience, Schiller)
George Martin - Producer~ (Beatles)
Warren Cann - Drums, Backing Vox~* (Tiger Lily, Zaine Griff, Peter Godwin, Helden, Mecano, Duffo, Python, Paper Toys)
Chris Cross (Allen) - Bass, Synth, Backing Vox~* (Tiger Lily, Hello, Larry Carlton )
Billy Currie - Keys Violin~* (Tiger Lily, Gary Numan, Tubeway Army, Steve Howe, Dead or Alive, Sam Blue, Vinny Burns, Phil Lynott, Humania, Visage, Duffo)
Geoff Emerick - Engineer~
Jon Jacobs - Asst Engineer~
Peter Saville Associates- Cover~*
Ken Kennedy - Drawing~
Bill Philpot - Colouring~
Rik Walton - Engineer*
John Hudson - Engineer*
Mae McKenna - Gaelic Vox*
String Quartet (Amanda Woods, Jacky Woods, Margaret Roseberry, Robert Woollard)*
Shirley Roden - Backing Vox*
Debbie Doss - Backing Vox*
Crown Copyright - Callanish Standing Stones Photo*

Unknown-ness: Although the name sounds familiar, and I have seen their name around recently, as they have reformed, I don’t know anything about them. I associate them with cod, dark wave, like Cabaret Voltaire, Fad Gadget, or maybe even Depeche Mode. But there are sub categories in there that could define them more, including being actually listenable, which Depeche Mode’s mid-later stuff is not.

Album Review: Ultravox has gone through a couple of rebirths, moving from a first incarnation called Tiger Lily, through finally settling on Ultravox (without an !), and the departure of the creative front man, giving way to their most successful era with Midge Ure, which lasted through to 1988. They reformed twice in 1992 for four years, and again in 2009 to the present. These two albums were in the middle of the Ure years, and show their biggest charting success in the US (Quartet, #61). Quartet had 4 top 20 charting songs, and Lament had three top 40. Both were top ten albums in the UK. All in all, they were a pretty big band in the UK, with minimal exposure in the US.

“Reap the Wild Wind” begins with an upbeat crystal-synth melody and bouncy bass. The vocal tempo of the chorus reminds me of “Invisible Touch.” The vocals are dark and gothic and not always sung. But it is a happy, wind-swept song.
“Serenade” starts with a bouncy bass and steady drum beat, sounding like something from Art in America (another album I reviewed). The digital pulsating synth tempo keeps the song moving, through the gothic sections and soaring vocals. This could be used for a broadway or ballet growth montage.
“Mine for Life” starts off with a few power chords, with off key, dark tones to form the melody. The chorus is anthemic, like an echoing, emo declaration.
“Hymn” keeps its namesake, and quietly fades up in gospel style. It quickly turns into another driving “growth montage” song, incorporating OMD’s Enola Gay synth hook underneath. It has that same pace, too. The majestic yet sterile chorus rises and falls, building itself with little melody peaks.

“Visions in Blue” starts out very dark and shuttered in with a sad piano carrying the deep mournful and crooning vocals along. The second tier of verse gets bolder, shedding the closeted fear and soaring up accompanied by sinister organ noted. Once it gets going, it features a synth hook that is reminiscent of a slowed down Pet Shop Boys’ It’s a Sin (which came out 5 years later). It combines pulsating electronic vibrations with angry chamber piano.
“When the Scream Subsides” starts off pretty suddenly, and has energetic Sparks-like vocals pared with quieter chanting. The song is a confident march, but it tends to meander in the instrumental section.  
“We Came to Dance” has a nervous keyboard intro that sounds like Mega Man’s Elec Man stage (which also came out 5 years later) alongside echoing bangs. The song maintains a nervous tension, thanks to the pulsating tempo. This song reminds me of Placebo. It features a dark breakdown with more bangs and creepy spoken lyrics that are barely audible.
“Cut & Run” again uses the ringing keyboard synth sound made popular by Pet Shop Boys. It is a dark, charging, chanting section that leads to a stripped away, show-tuney upbeat emotional vocal section. The darkness and upbeat sections converge to finish out the song in an instrumental fade out.
“The Song (we go)” sprints off at the start with driving drums and cold, sweeping synth. Even when the vocals come on, and the synths fade away, the song continuously moves forward, right to the driving fade out.

“White China” has a vibrating electronic bass line that reminds me of OMD or perhaps The Human League. The vocals sound like they are sung into a bucket, with the echo and deepness. Backing vocals create a bit of a call and response. The chorus is anthemic and tundra cold. There are some techno and drum beat breakdowns before starting the electro-synth backbone to the song. This could have been in a John Hughes movie.
“One Small Day” was a single, starting off with some arena rock guitars. The chorus blasts off with a bold, Big Country or The Alarm like echo that can fill a whole stadium. The song breaks itself down, and then builds back up into the explosive chorus. The chorus itself is a very catchy, repeating hook that could go on forever.
“Dancing With Tears in My Eyes” was also a single, and UK #3. A pulsating rubber band synth rhythm kicks it off, and the vocals pattern the chorus of One Small Day very closely. The band discovered the anthemic country side, arena rock feel, and they pushed it through to the first three tracks. Personally I like them all, but they are too similar to pick a favorite. Just when the song feels like it has built itself up as powerfully as it can, it somehow breaks new ground and reaches new heights.
“Lament” was also a single. It starts out slow and you can tell it is a product of the mid 80’s in production. It has a little of a “Take My Breath Away” melody in the chorus.  The synthesized xylophone particularly stands out as an 80’s band trying to attain an organic feel via electronics.

“Man of Two Worlds” fades in with soaring notes. This gives out to a driving beat and deep, delicate vocals. For the chorus, a crystalline flute-synth is layered alongside the Gaelic female guest-vocals.
“Heart of the Country” was a single. A synthetic industrial drum beat starts the song off with dark stressed synth notes as a bass line. Synth industrial elements are peppered in here and there. The song staggers along with a mid-paced tempo, and lots of sounds and sampled sections trying to give the song more depth.
“When the Time Comes” begins with an organ quietly fading up. Echoing drum machine beats are layered behind, and diffused vocals are added, sounding like the distant vocals in Video Killed the Radio Star. The song gently glides along, overtop a wafting, rising and falling synth bass wave. It fits the rest of the album’s profile with its crystalline synth tone.
“A Friend I Call Desire” fakes the listener out with a sinister dark tone, only to be lifted off with a Duran Duran-like lead looping guitar. The song abandons the guitar for the darkness, this time, it is a driving force. Soaring vocals buffered by a female chorus in the background. The darkwave dance song progresses along the cold soundscape, to a squeaky synth ending fade.

Stand Out Tracks: ~Seranade
*White China

Youtube Lament Full Album

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