The Case For “Paths + Angles”

Chrysalis | UK | clear 7" | 1981 | CHS 2559

Chrysalis | UK | clear 7″ | 1981 | CHS 2559

Ultravox: The Voice UK  7″ [1981]

  1. The Voice [7″ edit]
  2. Paths + Angles

I was sort of late to the game on collecting Ultravox B-sides. It was not until late 1982 when I ran across the Japanese compilation LP of largely non-LP material “New Europeans” for sale at a Record City store that I finally jumped into the B-side pool for that band. The LP had almost every non-LP track from the “Vienna” and “Rage In Eden” albums and was a big step up for me when I bought it. It was great hearing all of the B-sides that I would see listed in those tiny print ads that ran in Trouser Press. Having material from the sessions for those albums that I had not yet heard was electrifying.

None more so than “Paths + Angles,” the B-side for “The Voice.” When I think of my favorite B-sides, this one is always at the front of the list. I’ll go as far as saying that I don’t think the band ever made a track as great as this one going forward. The song is a fascinating blend of drummer Warren Cann’s stentorian oratory, slathered in reverb on the verses, with Midge Ure singing the chorus over a D-E-B, D-E-E chord sequence that never quite resolves itself.

The rhythm was a unique, loping motorik beat with kick bass drum machine accented by a rapid four beat tattoo at the beginning of every measure. There was something jagged, yet regimented about it. That spilled over to the minimal guitar atmospherics that Ure laid down on the track, often mixed to hard left. Synths were minimal; primarily treated piano,  with little of the usual Billy Currie flash and pitch bending, though he did sneak in a viola solo; the hallmark of Imperial Period Ultravox. Bassist Chris Cross stuck to sequenced synth bass on this track. Yet it all coalesces thanks to the song’s killer melodic hooks which were joined with the typically compulsive Krautrock rhythms that Ultravox were always wont to use.

The emotional tone of the song also gave it an added cache with my ears. I enjoyed the clinically dispassionate feel to it all. A feeling that was only cranked up several notches by having Warren Cann deliver the verses in his usual  low register sprechtgesang delivery. This vibe, coupled with the rolling, rhythmic feel conspired to make this one a perfect storm of Ultravox sonic DNA on this B-side. I thought that there was a willingness not to pander here and it suited the band particularly well.

The story of how the “Rage In Eden” sessions were made is already the stuff of legend. The band decamped to Köln, Germany to spend three tense months locked up in Conny Plank’s studio without a single note written before hand. The stresses stretched the band to the breaking point, but it played out nicely in the introverted paranoia of the album itself. There was a slightly better sense of  “breathing room” on this B-side, which I suppose explained why this somewhat expansive cut was taken out of the running order for the most claustrophobic of Ultravox’s albums. It made sense, even though I found this to be a superior song to anything else on the “Rage In Eden” album.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
This entry was posted in Core Collection, Designed By Peter Saville, New Romantic, The Great B-Sides and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Case For “Paths + Angles”

  1. VersionCrazy says:

    Good call there – Ultravox of Vienna / Rage In Eden produced B sides every bit as equal, if not superior, in quality to the album tracks, this one along with Passionate Reply and Alles Klar are particular favourites.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Version Crazy – So true on “Passionate Reply!” Even better rhythms, and an extended version [!], but no Warren Cann, so this one stands as their acme to my ears. Subsequently, they were stretched too thin for great B-sides as weak instrumentals or worse, instrumental versions predominated.

      Like

  2. Echorich says:

    No other Ultravox song exemplifies better the Plank Factor. This is Ultravox giving in fully to their place and circumstance. What I love most about it is that it removes all of the new romantic baggage that was thrust upon Ultravox with Vienna, but actually managed to be successful at being simultaneously Teutonic and personal. I’ll agree Paths + Angels is more introspective than paranoid, but I don’t think it feels miles away from the final track listing of Rage In Eden. It may be less urgent than I Remember or The Ascent, but it shares a bit with both to these ears.
    Rage In Eden is far and away my favorite Ultravox album. I feel it achieved everything that band and producer set out to create and affects me the same today as it did 35 years ago.

    Like

  3. jordan says:

    I remember finding that Ultravox Japanese comp as well and I was over the moon though I had many B-Sides already.I thought all the B-sides from Vienna,RIE and even Quartet were quality.I play them as much as the albums tracks.After that,it was very thin.
    Keep Talking (or Torqe-ing) B side was very much in the spirit of RIE though rough as it was a demo,probably my favorite.
    RIE is still after,30 plus years,my favorite “New Wave” album.The artwork,quality of recording (c/o Conny) and of course songs are all top.Lyrics are a bit daft mind you.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Jordan – If I judged music strictly by lyrical content I’d have very few records in the Record Cell! Perhaps that’s why I developed a Francophone streak in the mid-late 80s! I’m not conversant with French, which helps as I gather that the lyrics were typically banal at best if I could fully understand them.

      Like

  4. Gavin says:

    Great to see others also enjoy my favourite Ultravox song of all-time!
    Rage in Eden is my favourite album by them too and as you all say,the associated b-sides are swoonworthy to say the least.
    For the last 19 years or so I have been a regular DJ at “Electric Dreams” club in central London,the foremost New Romantic/New Wave/Electro club night in the UK.”Paths and Angles” is regularly played,as are many other album tracks and b-sides/live versions.Its a club night for the real fans of the genre.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Gavin – RIE only gave us two non-LP B-sides, but what songs they were! The ‘Vox were never as strong again. So you do a NewRo DJ night and use this one as a “secret weapon?” You are obviously a man of taste, sir.

      Like

  5. jordan says:

    Monk.

    Well,I speak French and I can tell you that the lyrics in French were often as vapid as the English ones.
    I spoke to Midge a few years ago and asked him about the lyrical content of RIE.He told me most of it was nonsense but sounded great to the ear.
    It is an interesting idea to listen to words in another language that you do not understand,then you can make up some magical world.
    Except Kraftwerk Showroom Dummies,that just sounds plain weird in German to my mind.

    Like

    • Vlad says:

      > I spoke to Midge a few years ago and asked him about the lyrical content of RIE.He told me most of it was nonsense but sounded great to the ear

      Well, it’s this kind of attitude that I think really hurt the band’s legacy in the long run. I don’t know for sure but it seems that Midge is resentful to Ultravox for clearly overshadowing almost everything alse he has done. So he systematically devalues everything about the band with this kind of remarks – while it’s crucial to create some sort of a cult or myth to remain viable and “worthy” to the future generations (and he, being the only viable band member, could do quite a bit to support that). As it is, Ultravox for all their invention and influence now seem simply an also-ran with one or two notable songs – while, say, Japan or Simple Minds and even Duran Duran are cited and referenced constantly.

      Though this kind of attitude hurt many bands – like Human League who “honestly” declare themselves “just a pop band” – and consequently are treated as such. Sad sight, actually.

      Like

  6. Vlad says:

    Hi Monk, long time absent – and coming back to a usual great write-up, thank you! “P&A” is certainly one of Ultravox’s best even trumping the whole albums (“U-Vox”) with its power and might. One of the best B-side bands of “New Wave” – be it “Cross Fade”, “Waiting”, “Passionate Reply”… Even oddities like “I Never Wanted to Begin” are fantastic – would fit on the album straight away! I also love their instrumental work – even the B-sides to “U-Vox” are great (which is really strange and unexpected).

    With “P&A” the story is even more interesting – as it doesn’t actually feature Midge, who was away for the time of recording to do something or the other. So it’s Warren, Billy and Chris – with Chris handling both guitar and chorus vocals. And it’s produced by those three collectively (as Ultravox), with no Plank involvement – as it’s recorded much later, I guess during the Autumn 1981, especially for the single (like “Passionate Reply” was). The writing credit may seem misleading but actually it was a fundamental agreement since 1979 to share credits evenly between band members to avoid money issues. Still, by the time of “Lament” it seems to start causing grumbles over who contributes most and who simply walks away with 1/4 of royalties – but the agreement was in force up until the demise of the band in 1987 (and even “Ingenuity” from 1994 is recorded with this set-up of all band members listed as writers). So there!

    P.S. Oh you can tell I only need a slight excuse to show off :o)))

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Vlad – Welcome back! Wow, so that was Chris Cross handling guitar and b-vox? I was not aware of the details surrounding this song, unless it’s all in a forgotten issue of Extreme Voice that I have not read in 20 years. Hah! Then they didn’t need that Midge Ure bum to make fantastic music! I’m not shocked to hear that the song came much later than the album. Given the stressful recording of the album, I’m not surprised that the B-sides did not date from the album sessions but came afterward instead. This is surprisingly the case more often than you would believe. That the fruits of their later sessions were so powerful was a testament to their considerable strengths as a band trio! That’s also a good point you make regarding the “U-VOX” B-sides. They completely trump that album ten times over. Bands that split earnings and royalties evenly are the right way to go but human nature being what it is, it makes for a lot a fractious potential down the road. Just ask Spandau Ballet.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s