Ultravox: Brilliant

The synth-pop pioneers return with hubris-tempting title.

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

As arguably the first ever British synthpop band (their self-titled debut album was released in 1977, ahead of The Human League, Soft Cell, OMD et al) it makes sense that Ultravox should be the last to issue a comeback album. Following on from their sold-out reunion shows in 2009, Brilliant is their first album to feature the classic original line-up (or at least the one that gave us hits such as Hymn and Vienna, because John Foxx isn’t here) since 1984’s Lament, after which drummer Warren Cann left.

Now he’s back, as are singer Midge Ure, keyboardist Billy Currie and synth/bass whiz Chris Cross. And they’re making a fine noise indeed.

They may not quite be purveying the sort of forbidding, punk-inflected synth-rock of 1977’s Ha! Ha! Ha!, and their chilling dystopian visions may have thawed somewhat, but there is no denying the imperious splendour of the title track or the jackhammer pulse of Rise.

Sure, Midge Ure still sings as though delivering sermons from the mount, there is an air of pomp throughout Brilliant, and the band tend to belabour every melody on here. But then if they didn’t do that they wouldn’t be Ultravox, would they?

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.