Ultravox’s New Album Now Has A Face

EMI | UK | CD | 2012

Well, that’s not at all what I expected. This cover, within the space of 24 hours, has been hotly discussed on the Ultravox official forum, but I don’t have a presence there, so here are my $0.02 on this phenomenon. First of all I’ll admit that the concept had promise. I don’t find it to be a completely hopeless effort. They look like they’re trying and not taking the easy way out. The use of monochrome [virtually] is somewhat daring and the heavy chiaroscuro reminds me of this infinitely better cover,

Chrysalis | UK | 12" | 1981 | CHS 12 2540

What the above cover has in spades, is sheer class. It’s a Peter Saville design with a Trevor Key photo. It rarely got better than that. While Saville was an old school Ultravox fan who designed all of their best records, he didn’t care so much for the Midge Ure era of the band and regarded the work as “work for hire.” Don’t believe me? Then where’s all of the dozens of Ultravox sleeves that you would expect to find in volume one of his coffee table monograph? The fact remains that Trevor Key produced reams of the best photography to grace music releases [apart from the many useless Phil Collins sleeves he apparently shot – ugh] in the 1980s before his untimely death in 1995.

What “Brilliant” desperately needed was someone to perhaps laser cut the typography on a thin gauge sheet of steel and hand roll it to achieve the desired result. Then, had they gotten a crack photographer of Trevor Key’s caliber to light and shoot it, [good luck there] it may have achieved what they seem to be reaching for. Quite frankly, the end result they’re using isn’t even up to the level of a typical 3D rendering. It looks like something thrown together in Photoshop with an acute case of filteritis.

The typography on view is nothing to write home about, either. The symmetrical lower case “i” characters in the title are a non-event. The band’s logo has an unfortunate resemblance to this earlier, more stunning cover, again by the great Peter Saville Associates.

Chrysalis | US | LP | 1983 | FV 41394

Well, in a little more than a month, I’ll have a copy in my hands and I hope that it sounds better than it looks. On that subject, I’m completely gobsmacked that from all data available currently, that there will only be downloads and a normally priced CD for this release! In these dark days of bleeding fans dry, there is no over the top boxed set version complete with bonus disc of Rusty Egan remixes of select album tracks [hang on – I’d pay good money for that…!], deluxe signed poster and bonus 7″ single with two cuts exclusive to the box only, in addition to a 2xLP 180g marbled vinyl edition of the album – all for the princely sum of $100.00! In fact there’s not even a now ubiquitous LP version pencilled in for release.

Given that it’s been 28 years since their last waxing, and that they managed to get signed to EMI, one of the three entertainment conglomerates left, this lack of hype seems to be awfully self-effacing! A bit much for my tastes, actually. Too bad the brains at EMI no longer have the great Vinny Vero on the case. In his capable hands, this new Ultravox album would seem all the more like the event it should be, rather than a potential damp squib firing off in exactly one month’s time. Join us in 5-6 weeks for the post-mortem.

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About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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2 Responses to Ultravox’s New Album Now Has A Face

  1. VersionCrazy says:

    Haven’t had so much time of late to keep up on the emergence of the new Ultravox album, but a few things strike me here; i) this is my first glimpse at the album art and you are spot on about the rendering – were this the ’80s and Saville/Key at the helm, I can envisage it being given the full-on treatment you describe, cut metal and photographed – here, it is definitely in the Photoshopped lands. ii) that is a surprise that there is no deluxe edition of any form, or vinyl edition planned yet- like, *really* surprising, given the lavish treatment doled out to last year’s live EP! iii) sadly, you are also spot on about Saville’s seeming view on his Ultravox work – not only the book, but the exhibition held at London’s Design Museum back in 2003 was also sadly bereft of any Ultravox samples. This is particularly galling for me given how much of an influence that work had in shaping my own tastes and subsequent practice. Oh well… Let’s hope that record does deliver – Magazine managed a dignified return, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed here!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      VersionCrazy – I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer by the age of 12, but when I was 16, yeah. Peter Saville was like the biggest rock star to me! His work was a monumental education/inspiration for me. Far more inspiring than my actual design education, sadly. This new album design really isn’t in that league, though it’s still much more than perfunctory.

      You are correct, of course regarding the insanely elaborate packaging on the “Moments From Eden” EP! It was one of the most spectacular jobs of packaging I’ve seen… ever! I would have expected that level of detail on the new album, but that was made before EMI signed the band and I’m geussing that the band are still in the red on that one!

      Curiously enough, I thought that the design of “Moments From Eden” was awfully derivative of the alternative comic book Mr. X, by Canadian graphic designer Dean Motter. Ironically, Motter himself was a big Ultravox fan who took inspiration from the Ultravox song in creating the book. When I pointed out the direct swipes from his own Mr. X work in the Rian Hughes design, he was more than a little intrigued. Particularly since he told me that Hughes had apparently done illustration work for Mr. X after I had pretty much given up on comic books by the early 90s and lost track of the comic! That day was a little surreal for me because I was involved in an email thread on the issue between Motter and some of his pals like comic artist Ken Steacy and former Starlog editor Howard Zimmerman. I had grown up buying their work and knowing it forwards and backwards.

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