Peel Sessions

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Ultravox's first and only session for John Peel was recorded and broadcast seven days apart in November 1977, at a time when the group was still a frantic fusion of punk energy, futurist ambition, and bizarre indecision. Oddly, none of the songs on display could be numbered among the band's best material; with two albums to choose from (the self-titled debut and the just released Ha!-Ha!-Ha!), John Foxx and company could surely have conjured up a far more representative session. But still, Peel Sessions is a reminder of just how outré Ultravox were at the time, at least as far as major-label talent was concerned -- it would be another year before the likes of the Banshees, Human League, and Gang of Four began making waves in what was being termed the new music marketplace, which means "My Sex" in particular was completely out on its own (even if it is a barely disguised rewrite of Jacques Brel's "My Death"), while "Artificial Life" and "Young Savage" are simply icy shards embedded in the expectations of anyone tuning in for another dose of rentapunk. So it's a vital listen -- but, oh, how much better it could have been.

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