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Systems of Romance (Remastered)

Ultravox

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iTunes Editors’ Notes

Here, the band all but ditched the Clockwork Orange–style themes (life vs. art vs. aggression) of their two previous albums in favor of introspection and future-gazing optimism. Indeed, the cosmopolitan cityscapes still abound, as do the low-life romances involving machine-like emotions. But the hooks are honed and the ambient tones blend in beautifully (listen to the lovely, soaring “When You Walk Through Me” with its Beatle cops and key changes, or the dream-state detachment of “Slow Motion”). Rock ballast (“I Can’t Stay Long”) balances the pop wonder-all (“Someone Else’s Clothes”), while “Just for a Moment” sounds like singer/lyricist John Foxx believed in the loving grace of machines enough to pull true heartstrings. Coproduced by electronic music patriarch Conny Plank (Kraftwerk)—and with gifted rock violinist Billy Currie and unheralded guitarist Robin Simon (on his first and last album with the group) both shining—Systems of Romance had tentacles that reached far. It touched everyone from PiL, Gary Numan, and Duran Duran to Carl Craig, The Killers, and Skrillex. Midge Ure (from Rich Kids) replaced Foxx after this album's release.

Customer Reviews

One of the most influential electronic albums ever

Firstly, this review is not about bashing the Midge Ure era of Ultravox, which had it's place in the 1980's (and which gave us 'Vienna' after all). But whereas that incarnation was about making chart hits, the original Ultravox with John Foxx was all about making interesting music.

This was the 3rd and final album of that era and for me, the greatest of the three. More synthesizers than the self-titled debut and the new wave 'Ha! Ha! Ha!' and the whole thing just sounds so polished and complete. Add in a production by Conny Plank (who also worked with Kraftwerk) and you have the definitive time capsule of euro synth-music.

This is the album that influenced Gary Numan and many others to start making synthesizer music and 32 years on, still sounds timeless and as groundbreaking as it did when it was released in 1978. Many artists are credited for bringing what John Foxx and Ultravox did to music. So put that right and recognize them for the visionaries they were.

I can pop 'Systems' in the player today and am instantly taken back to John Foxx's lyrical poetry and the impeccable music of those that backed him.

An essential purchase for any fan on synth-rock.

Echoes of Pleasure

Everyone always says "Systems" was ahead of its time, and maybe they're right by a few months. Gary Numan did his best John Foxx and had huge hits the year after this record came out, and we all know the commercial success Ultravox achieved after Foxx left. But because of its modest/tragic origins (including getting dropped by their label and going on a self-financed tour of the US that included a gig at the Whisky before breaking up) combined with its epic ambitions, "Systems" resonates with a powerful mystique today than the more chart-friendly records it inspired. As cerebral and brooding as Bowie's Berlin trilogy, as glammy and experimental as Eno-era Roxy Music, and as flat-out catchy as peak Sweet or T Rex, "Systems" is a rare breed of crunchy rock riffs and melodic synth passages. The tracklisting is unbeatable: "Someone Else's Clothes," "Blue Light," "Some of Them," "When You Walk Through Me," "Maximum Acceleration," and of course "Slow Motion" and "Quiet Men"...Foxx and co. had to have known they had something special with this record, and its commercial failure then (as well as its relative obscurity today) only add to its legend.

Way Ahead

I think I stumbled on this by mistake in the late 70s working in a record shop thinking it may be another cool punk LP. I was dead wrong. Like Magazine, John Foxx's Ultravox melded the raw energy and enthusiasm of punk with the more satisfying remnants of prog rock that came before it. Add the influence of German electronics and Bowie making such an impact with "Low" in the UK, and this added up to one - very original - satisfying piece of work that stands up today. The analog synyths, violin, Foxx's detached cool vocals are all outstanding and I happened to love Robin Simon's scraping guitar riffs ( I also loved his work on Magazine's "Play"). Every track is excellent, but start with the first 2 for classics. "I Can't Stay Long" is an absolutely sweeping epic that at times reminds me of the best of the Bunnymen's bigger pieces. The original vinyl version ended with "Just for a Moment" which is a perfect closer. "When You Walk Through Me" is my only letdown on this LP. It seems alittle out of place and an attempt at a single sequenced in an odd spot in the LP with its distorted take on semi-Beatles riffs.

But this is a great, great, energetic statement of the times when electronic music was starting to emerge post-punk. It does not limit itself to just electronica, but rather allows every member of the group to add their own personality.

Biography

Formed: 1974 in London, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Rejecting the abrasive guitars of their punk-era contemporaries in favor of lushly romantic synthesizers, Ultravox emerged as one of the primary influences on the British electro-pop movement of the early '80s. Formed in London in 1974, the group — originally dubbed Ultravox! — was led by vocalist and keyboardist John Foxx (born Dennis Leigh), whose interest in synths and cutting-edge technology began during his school years. With an initial lineup consisting of bassist Chris Cross, keyboardist/violinist...
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