Don’t be duped by the PR bluster: “Lights Out is UFO’s seminal breakthrough album.” That honour, natch, goes to 1979 double-live masterwork Strangers In The Night. Additionally, the claim that the title track offers “an urgent portrayal of dystopian London” on a par with The Clash’s White Riot is a claim too far.
Yes, Lights Out (the song) might at its core be about the Notting Hill riots of ’76. Its anti-authoritarian vibe is undeniable. But equally – and you can imagine frontman Phil Mogg saying this, with a wicked glint in his eye – it could’ve been inspired by the singer’s hunt for a Zippo after he unwittingly spilled a can of Stella over his, er, fuse box. Certainly, album cover design supremos Hipgnosis plumped for the electric option, depicting Mogg and guitarist Michael Schenker lurking inside London’s Battersea Power Station.
Regardless, Lights Out is a very fine album indeed. It reached No.23 in the US upon its release in ’77, but surprisingly didn’t trouble the UK Top 50. Its lush sonics, by producer Ron Nevision, are a big improvement on previous flaccid efforts by Leo Lyons, and are further improved here.
Too Hot To Handle and the twinkling Love To Love have more than stood the test of time, and the less renowned Electric Phase is a chunky personal fave, but a dodgy cover of Love’s Alone Again Or smacks of a cheroot-chewing exec demanding: “We need a hit single from you boys.”
This remaster comes in two CD or three-LP formats and includes an April ’77 show from London’s Roundhouse. The gig is vivacious and vital, despite the recent culling of Boogie For George (a track that makes Status Quo sound like Supertramp) from the set. The three bonus tracks are CD-only, a sure sign of a fading format. Sadly, said tracks are barely worth having, being edits of Too Hot To Handle and Try Me along with a rough acoustic version of Alone Again Or.
The vinyl is the gold. Given the relatively small number of tracks spread across three 12-inch platters, the grooves are so deep and wide they could double up as a Scalextric set. Thus the sonics are out of this world, as deep and resonant as Mogg’s tonsils at the top of their game.