Most of my music collection was generated before I was born, or at the very least, when I was too young to notice.
But despite the aging nature of my favourite artists, a surprising number of them are still going strong — or have even re-emerged from the ashes of acrimonious splits.
Two new albums of 2012 by older artists have made their way into my hands recently: Morten Harket’s Out of My Hands and Ultravox’s Brilliant.
Morten Harket — Out of My Hands
I almost made it but not quite, now you’re flying out of sight
The lead single, Scared of Heights, has been floating around for a wee while now, and it’s an absolute belter. So as release day approached, I slowly came round to the fact that I might just buy the album.
Always trying to throw a spanner in the works, my mum read a pre-release review of the album and told me they said it wasn’t any good. I am very glad that I disregarded them, because it is a very good little album.
I didn’t really think there could be life after A-ha, especially after Foot of the Mountain was one of their best albums ever, and as what little I had heard of Pål’s and Magne’s solo stuff never piqued my interest. But it turns out that, for lead singer Morten Harket at least, the quality remains.
There’s a lot of Foot of the Mountain in the arrangements, but the album as a whole is much more low key, the music a softer backing for Morten’s voice than FotM‘s pounding synth leads (though there are still synth solos throughout and many up-tempo toe-tappers). Vocally, Morten is on top form, delivering all the long and high notes we love him for.
Ultravox — Brilliant
When I heard Ultravox were reforming, of course I jumped at the chance to see them. But I still worried — with a good few years on the likes of OMD, I worried they might be too far into the old man territory and the gig would be a bit embarrassing.
Sometimes I’ll try, and sometimes I’ll fall, and sometimes I’ll let it flow
Oh, how my fears were dashed. They were incredible. A collection of stonking tunes, a mix of classic album obscurities and well-known hits. I knew all the words. All of them.
The reformation story of Ultravox is a strangely quick one. Midge Ure and Billie Currie appeared together on a radio show for some reason, then the fans were all “ZOMG REUNION” and then… They actually did reunite. Within something like six months, they were on tour. And then at some point somebody said “ZOMG NEW ALBUM” and then… They did. Okay, the new album took a little longer than that to coalesce, but it’s here now.
And what an album!
All the swirling atmospherics, all the strange percussion sounds, all the highs, lows, mournful dirges and uplifting sing-alongs. From the thunderous opening of Live to the dreamy, wistful ending Contact, it’s all there.
Like OMD with History of Modern before them, Ultravox have both kept their own classic sound and meshed it with contemporary synths to create an album that can stand strong and proud alongside any of their old works.
The Moral of the Story
I guess my point is that not all aging musicians (i.e. parents) are embarrassments; in fact, from my meagre experience, pretty much all of them are distinctively not embarrassments. Morten Harket has proved he can stand tall on his own two feet, and the reunited Ultravox have most definitely still got the magic.
Long may this continue.