A YEAR IN MUSIC: ULTRAVOX – Quartet (1982)

A YEAR IN MUSIC: 1982
Review by: Julien Mansencal

1982 belongs to the vast category of years that came before my birth, and Quartet belongs to the vast category of albums I discovered a long while after their release. Actually, my discovery of Ultravox’s “classic four,” from Vienna to Lament, happened across a short period of time, so much so that I still have trouble distinguishing them: to me, they are more like four consecutive chapters in a novel, and I would be hard pressed to choose a favourite among them.

Of course, I can hear the way George Martin (yes, *that* George Martin) gave a different twist to their sound here when compared with Conny Plank’s production on Vienna and Rage in Eden, but I do not feel the result is substantially weaker: more accessible and “poppy,” that’s undeniable, but the songs are just as interesting.

On my first listen, I spent an entire evening replaying “Reap the Wild Wind” again and again, always getting the same kicks from the crashing opening. A brilliant first track, maybe too much: nothing else on the album comes close to it. A few songs actually leave me cold, especially “Visions in Blue,” which aims too hard for Beauty with a capital B and fails. But I usually have an easy time resonating with Midge Ure’s passionate delivery and Quartet is no exception, be it the nervousness of “Cut and Run,” the grandiose faith of “Hymn” (what an apt title) or the vibrant nostalgia of “Reap the Wild Wind.” When the whistle fades away at the end of “The Song (We Go)”, I am always left wanting for more, so I usually follow it up with Lament. (As far as final chapters go, this is a really bleak one, but that’s a story for another round of reviews.)

So, maybe Quartet is the weaker chapter in the Ultravox novel. Still, it fits so well the overall narrative that skipping it would be a shame. “Hear the words of the syncopated rhythms; welcome to the song.”
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Author: tomymostalas

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