1976, Music

A New World Record (1976) by Electric Light Orchestra

Despite deciding I was going to get into ELO when I was 16 or 17, I never actually did. So I have no idea how this to compares to any of their other records. I believe this is supposed to be their best, or at least their most popular. Anyway…

Jeff Lynne really is the Beatles obsessive I’ve been lead to believe. This record sounds like the making of a man who listened to The Beatles (particularly their singles and Abbey Road) maybe a little too much, but decided that their warts were the least interesting part of their music. What they really needed was a permanent string section and female backing vocals!

Lynne appears to be a man whose knowledge of rock and roll is known through British bands and whose knowledge of “classical” music amounts to one of those awful “Great Classical Melodies” compilations you might buy your grandma. This music – both in its attempt to imitate genuine rock and roll and its attempt to sound “symphonic” – sounds nearly entirely removed from its sources. It’s like Lynne has only ever heard The Beatles after they abandoned their rock and roll roots, it’s like he never listened to the rock and roll that clearly inspired so much of The Beatles’ early music. And it’s like he’s not actually listened much to the music that he name drops in “Rockaria!” Or, if he has, he only remembers the catchy bits.

Where this music really succeeds is as really catchy, elaborate pop music. It’s so catchy it’s actually annoying. Unfortunately, for me, I don’t particularly like that kind of music. So I find the huge amount of artifice erected around these really catchy melodies to be kind of pointless. I will admit that this unique; I don’t know of another band with a permanent string section and certainly not one that tried so damn hard to meld catchy pop, rock and roll and “symphonic rock.” But this is totally not my thing. I’d rather listen to real prog rock that’s actually inspired by “classical” music, instead of just aware of it.


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