Lost in the ’80s: Ultravox

Written by Lost in the '80s, Music

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I’d been a big fan of Midge Ure-era Ultravox since the first time I saw “Vienna” on MTV early one Sunday morning in 1982, so when I spotted the new video for the first single from their latest album, Lament, a few years later, it was a bit of a shock. What the heck was one of my favorite synthpop bands doing with — gasp! — guitars around their shoulders!?!

Of course at the time I was unfamiliar with the earlier, John Foxx-led glammier version of Ultravox, so seeing the band I adored making like U2 in the snow, surrounded by non-synthesized instruments, was enough to give me heart palpitations. It’s not that “One Small Day” (download) was a bad song, or even a very atypical Ultravox tune — it was the new, arena-ready presentation that put me off at first. Where was the New Romanticism of “Reap The Wild Wind” and “Sleepwalk?” Ultravox, I was sure, had sold out.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/eSBcElV6p8o" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Ah, impetuous youth. Not only were there still synths on “One Small Day” (take a listen to that bottom bass), but the rest of Lament was still safely in my synthpop sweet spot, as the next single, “Dancing With Tears in My Eyes” proved. Yes, Lament was obviously a stab at breaking Ultravox as the next big rock thing, a la Simple Minds’ Sparkle in the Rain that same year, but there was still plenty of New Wave to go around, as my favorite track on the album, the opener “White China” (download), proved.

The catchiest dance song about smack since Laid Back’s “White Horse” (was 1984 a banner year for heroin or something?), “White China” was never released as a single proper, but dance clubs picked up on it and played it enough that the DJ-only service Razormaid! felt the need to release an extended remix (download).

Lament failed to break Ultravox in America, and after Ure scored a huge international hit with his solo single “If I Was,” the band released one more decidedly limp effort, U-Vox, before Ure split for good.

“One Small Day” and “White China” did not chart.

Get Ultravox music at Amazon or on Ultravox