(On the Return of the Classic Synthpop Band Ultravox)
One of the pioneers and forerunners of British New Wave / Synthpop music, Ultravox is back after 18 years with an album of new materials. The 12-track Brilliant, the band’s 11th album, was released in May 2012. Ultravox is currently comprised by its ’80s-era members—Midge Ure, Billy Currie, Chris Cross, and Warren Cann.
Recommended earlier songs by Ultravox include “Hiroshima Mon Amour,” “Quiet Men,” “Reap the Wild Wind,” “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes,” “All Fall Down,” and “There Goes a Beautiful World.”
Based on the new album’s lead single, “Brilliant,” the Ultravox sound is unmistakable–slices of synth sounds and melodies on a platter of Postpunk angular guitars, dancing bass lines, and simple yet memorable drum patterns. Other notable songs off this new album are “Flow,” “Rise,” “Remembering,” “Fall,” and “Satellite.”
The band was formed as early as 1974, but the name Ultravox was conceived in 1976. Ultravox released its first, self-titled album in the following year but started to become commercially successful only in 1980, in time for the advent of the New Wave era, upon the release of its fourth album, Vienna, which contains the hit singles “Vienna” and “All Stood Still.” Ultravox subsequently released several more albums until its eventual breakup in 1994.
Ultravox’s entire discography is as follows: Ultravox! (1977), Ha!-Ha!-Ha! (1977), Systems of Romance (1978), Vienna (1980), Rage in Eden (1981), Quartet (1982), Lament (1984), U-Vox (1986), Revelation (1993), Ingenuity (1994), and the latest, Brilliant (2012).
In 1979, Ultravox’s original vocalist, John Foxx, embarked on a solo career while the band was on a hiatus. His enduring and prolific solo career produced more than two dozens of solo and collaborative albums, starting with Metamatic (1980) through The Shape of Things (2011). Midge Ure replaced Foxx when Currie reformed Ultravox in the same year, resulting in the revitalization of the band and its commercial popularity. Ure gained further international acclaim because of his involvement in socially relevant musical charity projects such as Band Aid (1984), Live Aid (1985), and Live 8 (2005). He cowrote with fellow British artist Bob Geldof of the band The Boomtown Rats the Christmas single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, which was recorded and released in 1984 by the collaborative group Band Aid, which included equally important artists like Phil Collins, Paul Young, and David Bowie and members of British and Irish bands like Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, The Police, Bananarama, Culture Club, Wham!, Status Quo, Kool & the Gang, and U2. During this time, when Ultravox was inactive again, Ure pursued a solo career.
For his part, the multi-instrumentalist Ultravox member Billy Curie (violin, keyboards, synthesizers, piano, viola) had collaborated with other artists such as Gary Numan of Tubeway Army, Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy, and Steve Howe of Yes and became a member of other Postpunk bands like Visage (1979–1984), The Armoury Show (1985), and Humania (1988–89). Also, he holds the record of having been a part of all the albums of Ultravox.
Synthpop is a genre of music which is best defined by the liberal use of synthesizers and keyboards with elements of dance and electronic. Other notable bands/artists whose music may be described as Synthpop are the pioneering Alphaville, Depeche Mode, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and Pet Shop Boys and the relative contemporaries The Postal Service, Owl City, and Marina & the Diamonds.