Electric Light Orchestra

very poor


by Pch101 USER (10 Reviews)
July 30th, 2015 | 18 replies

Release Date: 1979 | Tracklist

Review Summary: And the beat goes on. Someone should make it stop.

It's not unusual for once-successful rock musicians to fizzle out over time. A good idea or two catapults them to the top, after which they recycle that idea as best as they can with decreasing degrees of success until their audiences grow tired of it and move on. But that wasn't good enough for ELO's leader and creative center Jeff Lynne: He decided to burn out instead of fading away, swan diving off of a cliff into a musical cesspool entitled Discovery. This eighth ELO studio release is so breathtakingly cynical and unabashedly lightweight that it's almost offensive to listen to it.

Disco Very, as it is often nicknamed, isn't shy about its formulaic approach to songcraft. More like manufacturing than art, this album could have been concocted in a laboratory or industrial kitchen with the use of a standard recipe:

- Begin with a vat of chemical artificial sweetener. Add shimmering keyboards and other toxic substances to create a large quantity of offensive goo. Stir goo until bland.

- Set aside a few portions of the goo. To these, add uptempo disco beat, disco strings and disco effects to prepare servings of "Shine a Little Love", "Last Train to London" and "On the Run"

- Blend another portion of the goo with a heavily-diluted bucket of pre-packaged Beatles/ Wings/Admiral Halsey Mixture™, then half-bake to create "The Diary of Horace Wimp"

- Reduce tempo of two more portions of goo, triple the recipe of the chemical sweetener and add painfully sappy vocals and lyrics to yield sluggish batches of "Need Her Love" and "Midnight Blue"

- Add mid-tempo sickly sugary pop beat to another portion of the goo to produce one serving of "Confusion"

- Dump remaining goo onto floor, add large obnoxious beat and redundant guitar riff to make "Don't Bring Me Down" (Gruss!)

To add insult to insult, Discovery also made it official that the Electric Light Orchestra was no longer an orchestra: ELO had been reduced to a four-piece conventional band without a string section. (In practice, the string trio had been largely relegated to live tour duty since Eldorado, but the players had been given full credit on the previous recordings.) The vision of a band that could emulate "I Am the Walrus" was dead and buried, with the new ELO having more in common with Olivia Newton-John than the Fab Four.

Discovery would also contribute an intrusive, persistent and redundant beat to Jeff Lynne's musical vocabulary. This monotonous device that is most notable here on "Don't Bring Me Down" has since become a ubiquitous part of Lynne's repertoire, permeating virtually everything that he has written or produced ever since. The big drum track would even find its way onto the Beatles Anthology reunion tracks "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love", as well as to the Traveling Wilburys. Bad habits really are hard to break.

But in some respects, it may be unfair to indict this record as some kind of disco abomination, for Discovery also does not compare well to disco albums of this period. This reviewer does not claim to be a fan or scholar of the disco genre, but Michael Jackson's Off the Wall, Chic's Risque and Donna Summer's Bad Girls are a few examples of albums released around this time that serve as far superior representations of this style of music. Just as Jeff Lynne's previous attempts at hard rock were unconvincing and plastic, his interpretations of disco are likewise limited to a redundant beat and effete vocals while he misses whatever soul and funk influences that had shaped the genre.

That makes Discovery a rather special record, for it borrows from both disco and pop while managing to dredge up the very worst of both. The discovery here is that Jeff Lynne had reached the end of his creative run -- the band that had been capable of producing the monument to pop music that was Out of the Blue just two years earlier had disappeared without a trace. As it turns out, this was not a momentary lapse of reason, as more of the same sort of bubblegum was destined to appear on the Xanadu movie soundtrack, while ELO's next full album Time would offer only a modest improvement.

Author's note/ shameless plug: This is one part of my ongoing series of reviews of most of ELO's original studio releases, with albums reviewed in chronological order. If you found this commentary to be somewhat informative, interesting, intriguing, intelligent, indefensible, insufferable, infuriating, incoherent, inane, incomprehensible or insulting, or if you just want to take pity on a guy who is masochistic enough to write these things, then please take a look at the other reviews and add your own thoughts. Thanks.

Recent reviews by this author
Electric Light Orchestra Secret MessagesElectric Light Orchestra Time
Electric Light Orchestra Out of the BlueElectric Light Orchestra A New World Record
Electric Light Orchestra Face the MusicElectric Light Orchestra Eldorado
user ratings (88)

Comments:Add a Comment 
Contributing Reviewer
July 30th 2015


'- Blend another portion of the goo with a heavily-diluted bucket of pre-packaged Beatles/ Wings/Admiral Halsey Mixture™, then half-bake to create "The Diary of Horace Wimp"' - instapos'd. Great review, not a massive ELO fan anyway but this seems like everything wrong with the 70s in an album.

July 30th 2015


I heard the only good song on here is don't bring me down...and by only good, I mean the only one that doesn't suck major ass...idk tho this isn't my thing

July 30th 2015


Album Rating: 1.5

"this seems like everything wrong with the 70s in an album."

An album like that would be better than this one.

July 30th 2015


This review series is fire

July 30th 2015


a well argued review. i haven't personally heard this, but i think our opinions on elo may differ, because i think Time is an extremely good album. granted it's their only album i've heard front-to-back, i think the melodies are sublime, despite its abundance of cheese

July 30th 2015


Album Rating: 1.5

"i think Time is an extremely good album. granted it's their only album i've heard front-to-back, i think the melodies are sublime, despite its abundance of cheese"

That's essentially my description of Out of the Blue, the album that preceded this one. Time isn't anywhere close to that, in my opinion.

July 30th 2015


I actually liked this album. you have to be able to handle cheese. but its not really that bad. I can see not liking it, even a 2.5, but a 1.5 seems very unfair to me. I understand how the redundancy could really bring it down (no pun intended) but I definitely can't see that meriting a 3/10. it's a relatively fun album with good flow.

July 30th 2015


Album Rating: 1.5

I gave it an extra 1/2 star because the instruments were in tune and the vocals weren't off key.

It missed out on the other 3 1/2 stars for being such a blatantly cynical attempt to cash in on the disco craze.

Contributing Reviewer
July 30th 2015


Haven't heard this album yet, but that gooey recipe part of your review makes me not want to check it out honestly. Great review as always though.

Digging: Impetuous Ritual - Blight Upon Martyred Sentience

July 30th 2015


Album Rating: 1.5

Linguist, there are so many other better albums than this that I can't fault anyone for skipping it.

Of course, you may disagree, so you may want to sample it. If "Shine a Little Love" and "Midnight Blue" haven't driven you to tears or wanting to kill someone, then you may want to try a couple of the other ones. (Aside from being formulaic, "Don't Bring Me Down" doesn't sound much like the rest of the record.)

Thanks for all of the comments, by the way.

July 30th 2015


"Don't Bring Me Down" is a guilty pleasure of mine, really all I know of this band tbh

July 30th 2015


>And the beat goes on
Damn that reminds me I need to whip out my dad's old The Whispers vinyl.

Last Train to London is by far the best here but its soooo disco

Contributing Reviewer
July 30th 2015


Sweet review man, pos'd hard.

Digging: Emperor - IX Equilibrium

July 31st 2015


btw sorry if I came across super harsh, this is a nicely written review even if I completely disagree

July 31st 2015


Album Rating: 1.5

No need to apologize. You're entitled to your opinion.

Again, thanks to everyone for your comments.

July 21st 2016


Heard Don't Bring Me Down on the radio yesterday... and It was pretty bad actually...

Been thinking of checking Out of the Blue though since Mr. Blue Sky is perfect.

Digging: R.E.M. - Murmur

May 12th 2017


Agree with most of the things you stated in the review, however I would not put this album at 1.5. It's somewhere around 2.5 for me, not THAT awful, but still not even close to previous 4 albums.

May 12th 2017


Album Rating: 3.0

I stole this record from my mom's collection before hearing this. Now I'm tryna find a way to give it back

Digging: Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up

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