Ultravox
Vienna


3.5
great

Review

by Divaman USER (157 Reviews)
February 19th, 2018 | 19 replies


Release Date: 1980 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An album of cold beauty, Midge Ure's first LP with Ultravox deserves inclusion in any conversation about the strongest new wave albums of the 1980s.

Vienna was the fourth studio album released by the British band Ultravox, and it represented a total change in direction for them. Released in 1980, Vienna was the first LP they recorded after their former frontman, John Foxx, left the band to pursue a solo career and was replaced by Midge Ure. It was also their most successful release, reaching as high as #3 on the UK charts, (and making the Top 10 in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands and Sweden), and selling enough copies to make it the only Plantinum album the band would ever achieve in the U.K.

Under Foxx, Ultravox had been a commercially unsuccessful band with a cult following that drew their inspiration primarily from artists in the glam-rock movement. Under Ure, the band moved firmly into the realm of synth-pop. The change wasn't completely accepted by their old fans, nor was it universally acclaimed by critics, some of whom derided Vienna as being as either too pretentious or too commercial. However, as evidenced by the sales charts, the band made many new fans with the advent of this LP, and for the most part, it's retrospectfully considered to be their best album.

Vienna is an album of great beauty that manages to be both cold-blooded and fierce at the same time. It's dominated by the synth and the bass, and the music works together with lyrics to create a nightmarish quality and an overall feeling of paranoia. This, for example, is from "Sleepwalk", the album's first single: "Rolling and falling, I'm choking and calling/Name after name after name." Then there's this, from the whispered, spoken-word "Mr. X": "I almost thought I saw him, standing, whistling on a bridge/I asked him the time, but when he turned around/I saw it wasn't him at all." Clearly, this isn't happy '80s dance-pop music.

The atmosphere continues, all the while building towards the dramatic climax of the next-to-last song, the brilliant title track "Vienna". Ure has said that the band wanted to create a song that was quiet and "sparse", with a middle that was "incredibly pompous", then give it an "over-the-top classical ending". Maybe. He also originally claimed that the song was inspired by the 1949 British murder mystery The Third Man, then later said he had completely made that up, so who knows" In any event, the track became a #2 single in the U.K. and New Zealand, reached #1 in Ireland, Belgium and The Netherlands, and is generally considered to be one of the signature songs of the British '80s synthpop era.

Vienna isn't my favorite Ultravox album. That title goes to their warmer, more mournful 1984 classic Lament. But I love Vienna for its pervasive disquieting mood, and for the consistent high-quality of its songs. It deserves inclusion in any conversation about the strongest new wave albums of the '80s.



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user ratings (66)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Papa Universe
February 19th 2018


21563 Comments


This didn't have a review yet? How odd...

Digging: N'Zwaa - Maha Kali

Divaman
February 19th 2018


3676 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, I thought so too. That's why I had to give it some love.

Digging: Soen - Lotus

Papa Universe
February 19th 2018


21563 Comments


ultraPOS

SandwichBubble
February 19th 2018


9693 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This not having a review is a travesty sure, but Ha!-Ha!-Ha! not having a review is blood-curdling

Divaman
February 19th 2018


3676 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thank you, Papa U.

What's really crazy, Sandwich, is that before I reviewed "Lament" last September, none of Ultravox's albums had reviews. (So any chance you'll be joining me in Ultravox land with a review of "Ha!-Ha!-Ha!"?)

butcherboy
February 19th 2018


9464 Comments


finally got that Ultravox review like you've been wanting too.. cheers, Diva!

danielcardoso
February 19th 2018


11770 Comments


The title track is great, i should check this.

SandwichBubble
February 19th 2018


9693 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"So any chance you'll be joining me in Ultravox land with a review of "Ha!-Ha!-Ha!"?"

tempting, but my passport needs renewing.

bloc
February 19th 2018


55834 Comments


Great album

Digging: Paris - Sleeping with the Enemy

e210013
February 19th 2018


2344 Comments


Nice to see another review made by you about Ultravox. Only you could do that. Ultravox always was a beloved band by me. They always were one of my favourite bands of the 80's, one of my favourites of the new wave movement. However, I prefer the tree first albums from their phase with John Fox. Still, I always loved "Vienna". It's certainly more commercial and less adventurous than their other previous three, but he always had a very srong affect on me. Perhaps was is beauty, as you mencioned. Anyway, I love all their albums till "Lament".

Another great review, my friend. I continue reading your reviews with great pleasure.

P.S. - I need to rate this albums urgently. But as you know we spend many of our free time preparing our reviews, leaving a very few time to be able to do that. Pos.


TheIntruder
February 19th 2018


411 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

My father is a great fan of this band. So, I listened many times some of their albums. I remember particularly this one. Nice job Divaman. Have a pos. I need to check it again, maybe even today.

Divaman
February 19th 2018


3676 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks gang.



Sandwich, time to get to the old post office and renew it, my friend. I'm lonely here.



e, I've only just recently listened to Systems of Romance, which is the first I've heard of the John Foxx Ultravox, but I'm sorry to say I was kind of disappointed by it. They sounded kind of like Kaiser Chiefs, who I like, but the songs didn't really grab me. Maybe it will grow on me.

e210013
February 19th 2018


2344 Comments


Maybe, my friend, maybe. We are in front of very distinctive proposals. With Fox they were more experimental and more punk than with Ure, which were more synthpop. Still, I think "Systems Of Romance" was their most polished album from that beginning era. It was the first album to bring synths to the forefront of the band's sound.

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
February 19th 2018


24755 Comments


really cool band name, might have to check this just cuz of that
also nicely done diva. would you rec I start here or Lament?

Divaman
February 19th 2018


3676 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'd say start here, Conmaniac.

TwigTW
February 22nd 2018


3768 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Very nice review Diva, you hit all the right notes. This is my second favorite Ultravox after Systems Of Romance. They often use a real drummer on this album and I think it is better than just the drum machine . . . I've never heard the Kaiser Chiefs, but from the way you describe them I need to check them out.

Digging: Kishi Bashi - Omoiyari

GhandhiLion
June 8th 2019


4630 Comments


Underrated band here.

Digging: The Gordons - The Gordons

TwigTW
June 11th 2019


3768 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This means nothing to me...

Divaman
June 11th 2019


3676 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Oh? Vienna.



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