Ultravox started out as sort of glam infused new wavers, but after three cool but not particularly successful albums, their label dumped them, front man John Foxx went solo, and the other members wandered off in various directions. Which would have been the end of things if keyboardist-violinist Billy Currie hadn’t run into Midge Ure (his first name was actually Jim) while working with original New Romantics, Visage. The rebooted Ultravox took the New Romantic thing and ran with it, first with Vienna, then 1981’s Rage In Eden, with the title track a study in contained, cinematic noir. Like peering out a window at the new decade as a thick fog rolled in – interesting times whether you wanted them or not.
By 1980, so-called New Wave was working through at least its ninth mutation. In the case of Ultravox, this meant parting ways with original front man John Foxx, hooking up with new guy Midge Ure and going distinctly (some would say pompously) Modern with monster album (at least in Europe) Vienna. “There really isn’t a bad track. Some dubious lyrics maybe, but the feel of the thing, its sharp, pristine elegance, more than makes up. One of those albums that absolutely nails its time.” (Philip Random)
The band known as Japan may have started out as a second rate (late to the game) glam outfit more famous for looking good than sounding good, but by the time the time they called it quits (for the first time), they were making a music that was entirely their own, as elegant as it was mysterious. Which perhaps speaks to Life Without Buildings being relegated to a limited edition flexi-disc and b-side, until finally showing up on 1984’s Exorcising Ghosts, one of the better compilation albums of any era.
ABC were white guys with a thing for big, sophisticated soul. Trevor Horn was an ex member of both Yes and the Buggles with a talent for big, sophisticated production. Together they made a beautiful monster called Lexicon of Love, with 4 Ever 2gether a weird gem about drugs and love and evil tucked away deep into side two.