1980, Music

Vienna (1980) by Ultravox

I understand that this album represents a fairly major change in the band’s personnel. I’m less sure about how much of a change in sound there was, which should tell you that I don’t know anything about this band. So I can’t say anything about where this fits in their history/evolution.

What I can say is that, whether you label this album “synthpop” (has too many guitars) or “new romantic”, it’s a diverse album for whichever genre. Though this is very much an ’80s record, due to the heavy presence of synthesizers and electronic percussion, there are still plenty of organic/traditional instruments to give it the sound of something other than synthpop. (There is violin, for example.)

It helps that the songwriting is diverse too. I’m not sure how I feel about the title track, but one thing you can say is that it does not sound a whole lot like the rest of the record. One of the advantages of getting ideas from all four band members is that they often write different things. One of the strengths of this record is that you can’t quite pin it down. (For example, what other new romantic band uses distortion this much?) And whatever process they do have, it does seem like one of them at least is there to ensure the songs are catchy enough, because these are pretty catchy songs.

It’s a pretty good album. It’s not adventurous or quirky enough for me – if we’re calling this new wave, it’s second wave new wave – but it’s way more diverse than most of the music in synthpop or new romantic that I’ve been exposed to. And it’s the rare album from one of these groups that feels like it is from not just a band (in the traditional sense of the word) but a rock band. And that’s appealing to me.


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