INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Classic Pop OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2016 - by Paul Lester
ULTRAVOX!: THE ISLAND YEARS
Before Vienna and Midge Ure, Ultravox! were a punk band whose name featured an exclamation mark, a dart of punctuation that suited the exclamatory times (it also nodded to krautrock combo Neu!). Their 1977 self-titled debut album had pre-punk influences such as Hawkwind and Roxy Music, the latter making sense given the presence of Brian Eno at the controls. With John Foxx on vocals, the band caught the bleak mood of the moment, with a patina of dystopian future-shock. The follow-up, Ha!-Ha!-Ha!, also from 1977 and Eno-produced, saw an increased use of electronics and the scything violins of keyboardist Billy Currie, pointing at least two ways out of the punk cul-de-sac for the new wave generation, a good year ahead of the shift towards post-punk. 1978's Systems Of Romance, their final recording with Foxx, was co-produced by Kraftwerk/Neu! whiz Conny Plank, and has been cited as an influence on the nascent synthpop scene - The Human League's debut album, to name but one early proto-electro work, was still twelve months away. Disc 4, titled Rare Retro, features twenty remixes, alternate versions, Peel Session takes and live recordings plus a twenty-page booklet with a new essay by esteemed Bowie/League author David Buckley.