Three minutes and forty-two seconds: What seems to have happened here is that Hayzi Fantayzee have said “We want to make amazing pop records” and then realised they have no particular method or knowledge of how to go about doing so. It was 1983; there was a lot of it about. So "Shiny Shiny" takes a chassis from “The Clapping Song” and whoops and hollers and plays the spoons over the top of it, adding a playground chant for a chorus. It takes its own inventiveness quite for granted - unless it actually IS just a fuck up on my MP3 there’s a bit where they make the song jerk about like the backing is skipping and then kick it to get back to the tune; it’s the kind of idea which in another time and place might have been made the point of the song and placed so you’d hear it and think “Yes. Innovative.” But here it just… happens, and you don’t think about it at all. (Well, you do now, because I’ve pointed it out to you.) Oh, and it’s supposedly “about” the apocalypse but really it’s about a song having a “most early 80s lyric ever” competition with itself. "I’m a hot retard / Marquis de Sade" looked a certainty until "The child spoke - we ain’t got a hope / Press the button press the button it’s all remote" turned up. Those meddling kids.
Three minutes and forty-three seconds: When I was 12 I chose my first Favourite Band. I’d had bands I liked before but this was the first time I decided to have a Favourite Band. They were Ultravox. Not Ultravox! with John Foxx who I thought of as legendary and frightening and probably unlistenable. But Ultravox, the four-piece with Midge Ure in (and Billy Currie and Warren Cann and… no, it’s gone.) I chose them mostly because friends liked them and I admired the seriousness with which these friends apporached that liking. Also, it was something to talk about waiting for lunch at school.
They were a serious bunch, Ultravox. I had most of the albums but I liked the greatest hits album, The Collection, more. It had a blue-marbled effect on the front cover framing the four solemn members of Ultravox as if the cover was decoration in an expensive bathroom suite. Once I sat an exam to get a scholarship to a new school and after I finished the paper I spent the remaining minutes listing the tracks on The Collection, in order. “The Thin Wall” was probably top, because I’d been told knowledgeably how good the drum programming was. “Passing Strangers” was probably bottom, because it was a love song but also I hope because it was a bad love song.
I don’t know where I put "Reap The Wild Wind" - mid table I assume. Now it sounds great, full of idiot confidence. The early 80s are full of people doing what amount to Bowie impressions but charged with a vulgarity Bowie never really managed.
Anyway the point of all this is that Ultravox were a kind of bridging device for me, a way for me to act out being Into Music before I actually got into music. It’s like the vaguely patronising thing sociologist/anthro types say about young girls with pop star posters on their wall: oh their fantasy romance is a kind of stabilisers-on preparation for real romance. Except for me going through all these motions of liking Ultravox was a preparation for being a real music nerd.