It's rated five bottles. What's so good about Ultravox!?
Really simple. First, great songs, unique construction and clever use of synths; second, powerful, heady stuff. Pretty much essential. My favourite is the middle LP, but I have always loved the other two.
You could argue that, given that the band was riddled with elements of what would become electronica and dance, but with dub reggae, glam and funk also welded into place, Ultravox! offered a step forward, beyond punk, yet before punk had even happened.
They're not just a fucking important band, but they're a damn fine band.
There are box sets and there are box sets. If you don't have anything by Ultravox!, or, if you like, you found the “Vienna”-era band a tad gooey on the nerves, this set brings their first three LPs together plus an extras disc.
Certainly the deluxe edition re-issues are part of their time. Can't help that.
You know what they say of the younger fans of Green Day, on the occasion of their first listen to The Clash? "Golly, they sound just like Green Day!" ...
One of the weirder things is revisiting old men's records and realising that their leaps forward 40-odd years ago did the spade-work for mega-selling buttonhead bands by the hundred. I mean, come on. The late '80s and mid-'90s Britpop thing owes a huge debt to Wire.
What is astonishing here, apart from the vibrant inyerfaceness of the pre-"Pink Flag" demos (recorded between May and August 1977), is that, like The Buzzcocks and The Clash, or Siouxsie and the Banshees around this time, how broadly creative Wire were over such a short space of time. Like The Clash and the Banshees, Wire were part of the punk burst, but didn't rely on its DNA.
There’s a Neil Young biography (maybe one of the earliest about him) by Johnny Rogan from 1982 that documents the great man’s “Ditch Trilogy” period in some detail. A section about Neil’s 1973 UK tour - before the release of “Tonight’s The Night” – makes him sound unhinged.
Rogan’s telling has Young believing his own audience patter that he’s “in Miami Beach” (tagline: “It’s cheaper than it looks”) and delivering ramshackle, desolate songs that the audiences had never heard before – when all the punters wanted was a run-through of the hit album “Harvest.”
Besides criticising the op shop stage décor, Rogan painted Young as near incoherent, bombed out of his brain on whatever was handy and mumbling. It’s like the man’s mind was a bottle short of a full case of Corzo.
This is swampy, tub-thumping, blues-y bayou rock and roll with more meat on its bones than a fat lady in a St Kilda cake shop at lunchtime. Of course it's from Melbourne, but it probably's done time washing dishes in a Memphis roadhouse, soaking up Alex Chilton stories.
The Beat Taboo take their cues from so many different places that you could easily name-drop half-a-dozen influences and come up winning and grinning. I suppose the Cramps are the obvious one (dig the "Human Fly" references on "Splinter Beach") but that's a tag that's as limiting as it's lazy.
Looked at their whole career, the Cramps were really a portal leading back to a rich assortment of '50s rockers and freaks. To whom, The Beat Taboo (and plenty of other garage-y bands) owe a deep debt.
There’s a school of thought that says continual exposure to dumb rock and roll will lower your I.Q. by a significant degree. Well, fuck that. You don’t need to be a Rhodes Scholar to enjoy hard and fast, Real Rock Action. But don’t be getting off on your snobbery trip, either.
Rock and roll can be thoughtful, intelligent and insightful. That doesn’t stop it also being thicker than a San Franciscan fog. Chuck Berry had his subversive moments, but “Johnny B Goode” ain’t one of them. Little Richard: “A whop bop a lu lop a-whop bam boo”? What the fuck is that about? Don’t even mention “Ob-la-di ob-la-da”. It’s a shit song anyway.
The point is that you can like smart rock and simultaneously roll around in the swill trough. It shouldn’t be one or the other. They’re not mutually exclusive. The Franklin School were flat out wrong. (Look ‘em up if you don’t know.) High art is one thing but getting high (or drunk) mindlessly at warp speed is another. Even if you're not into over-indulging, rock and roll is as much about fun and having a laugh as anything else. And it doesn’t get much funnier than middle-aged Melbourne punks Grindhouse.
OUTLAW BLUES AND ENDLESS GRACE....
If you're feeling unloved and forgotten, frightened and voiceless, alienated and misunderstood, in these brutally dark times of Trump, surveillance, controlled media, Gestapo cops and endless war, get these CD's. They will comfort you immensely. "Brilliant Disaster" is sort of an EP but also perhaps, the best LP I've heard since Ian Hunter's ‘90s masterpiece, "Rant".
The way you know every slick American music rag has been hijacked by the corporate state to promote war and Wall Street, bigotry and consumerism, is they keep putting war criminals, former wrestlers, and vacant lap dancers on the cover instead of the Cohenesque, Paul K… Maybe he ain't that famous, but his songs have had immeasurable emotional impact on most everyone they have been properly introduced to.