Review Summary: If you like 80's songs with themes about time travel, you just might enjoy this. If not, you will still probably enjoy it. It's that good.
Imagine my awe and amazement at the fact that there is not one singe album review for the absolute powerhouse that was Electric Light Orchestra (From hereon mentioned as ELO). ELO did one of the rarest and difficult feats in the music industry. They mixed two of the most polarly opposing genres in music seamlessly into music, and they do it quite well I might add.
The genres are, for those who haven't heard this band, pop and orchestral rock. Let me repeat this for you. This band bridges the gap between the some of the most sweeping orchestral melodies and places them amongst what could simply be disposable pop-rock otherwise.
It was an interesting turn in Electric Light Orchestra's sound. Almost all of their songs from the past were made up of the typical band line up (vocalist, bassist, guitarist, drummer) juxtaposed amongst orchestral instruments (violin, cello, piano). They completely removed all of their string instruments and went entirely synth on this album. (Some of the synth mimic strings to keep their sound a bit, so don't fret too much) The synth-strings aren't used that often, though. This is probably one of their more pop-influenced albums out of their collection as well. That's to say it isn't more disposable, though.
In fact, if I were forced to choose an album that truly encapsulates the 80's, Time would most definitely be my choice. This album is damn dancey. There are also some very dated effects regarding the robot voice that makes a few appearances in the album. I already mentioned the synth's. The fact that this album just ***ing rocks also comes to mind as well. Many might find Xanadu to be a more effective choice by the band, and more of an impact on the 80's culture as a whole, but it just wasn't as enjoyable nor as great as their concept album Time was.
Did I forget to mention that Time was a concept album? Well let me indulge you. The basic premise behind the album is an unwilling time traveler gets stuck temporarily into the year of 2095. As per expected, it is somewhat of a negative utopia, similar to novels like 1984 and Brave New World. The unwilling time traveler spends the finale of the album in sorrow over what the future holds, returns home with the knowledge of what the future holds to warn society of their mistakes. It is somewhat of a simpler concet album (more complex than Tommy
at least), but they are really effective in their delivery of this concept. Each song is lyrically driven with a powerful conviction and slowly gets darker and darker as the album progresses. Most amazing though, is that the lyrics can come so close to being clichÃ© that they stretch towards simplistic genius. The best example to this enigma is probably best located in the song, The Way Life's Meant To Be
As I wander around this wreck of a town
Where people never speak aloud
With its ivory towers and its plastic flowers
I wish I was back in 1981
Just to see your face instead of this place
Now I know what you mean to me
And I wonder (oh, I wonder)
Yes, I wonder (yes, I wonder)
Is this the way lifes meant to be?
The musicality on this album is also sublime. Most of it is placed for the general atmosphere of the song not to show off pretentious wankery. Nothing might shine or really grab your attention at first, but repeated listens will almost give you something new to grasp upon and say, "well that was pretty neat." When the guitars manage to make into the mix, which isn't actually that often on that album, they add that perfect twang to push the song that much more forward, but don't expect any crazy face-melting solos. One of few let downs (for me at least) was the boring drumming, many of the songs are using recycled beats, with little to no fills. It does suit the music well, and there is never really any point at which it feels awkward. The real musicality of this album lies within the bass and the synth. If the bass line in the should-be-but-wasn't-single Yours Truly, 2095
doesn't make you at least groove a little bit, then there must be something terribly wrong with you. The synth/piano has quite a few powerful influences on songs such as the intro to the ballad Ticket To the Moon
, and the unforgettablely awesome intro to the album Twilight
The most powerful force behind this album is the differentiality between tracks. Usually with pop, there is the ever-present problem of each song sounding the same. Now although each song tends to follow the verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure (which might be an instant turn off to some), the songs are set up with such differing moods that it is barely noticeable. Songs switch from dancey to ballad to Latin, and that is just the first half of the album!
There are also no weak tracks. This is one of the few albums I listen to all the way through, almost every time I play it. Songs flow effortlessly into one another and nothing is ridiculously overdone. They are just really well orchestrated pop songs that carry along a story.
Should I buy this?
Well, one look at my rating should be indication enough of what my answer to this question is. This is a great album that is enjoyable all the way through. Be wary if this is your first ELO album, however. It is somewhat of a large departure from their older stuff. It is still great album that should be listened to by all.
- Good album all the way through.
- The instruments are simple but effective.
- Differentiation instrumentally between songs.
- Good concept behind the album.
- Similar verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure.
- Outdated 80's effects might be seen as cheesy by some (although I appreciate them)
Overall Score: 5/5