Ahh yes, finally, a requested review from none other than good blogfriend and Phil writer Benjamin Vigeant! I’m not sure if anybody remembers this, but Ben was nice enough to request an album review of me about a year ago, the first time I actually bothered to ask people for requests in the first place. He actually requested a comic-review, if you can believe that, and I obliged him by writing one of the worst reviews/comics I have ever made. It was mean-spirited, obnoxious, and – worst of all – horribly horribly drawn. And it barely even mentioned the album he requested in the first place! I would like to delete it forever, but who am I to edit my own past?? I don’t believe in that. I will at least not bother to link to it here – if you really want to fish it out of the archives, God bless you.
So now I hope I can make up for past mistakes with this, what I hope will be a proper review of the album Time by Jeff Lynne’s Electrical Light Orchestra, released in 1981. I am under the impression that Ben asked me to review this one ’cause he knew that I would like it – and, well, he’s right! I will admit that my personal history with ELO is a little limited; the only album of theirs I’d had before I heard Time was A New World Record, which I have always loved. But still, I admit that I feel a little out-of-place giving Time a positive review without being able to compare it to their more well-regarded 70’s albums; I’ve only heard Eldorado a couple times and I haven’t even approached Out Of The Blue. So what I’m saying is, Time could be a complete piece of shit and I’m just so green-behind-the-ears that I can’t hear it!!
Well, OK, I’ll get Time‘s most obvious flaw out of the way right now: it has to be one of the most dated-sounding pop albums I have ever heard. Everything about it, from the synth-drenched orchestration to the vocoder-filtered vocals to the “CRAZY FUTURISTIC” lyrics, screams “I AM A POP ROCK ALBUM RECORDED IN THE EARLY NINETEEN-EIGHTIES.” So I would say that your enjoyment of Time will mostly be based on how many early 80’s production cliches you will be able to stomach in the span of 45 minutes. I, personally, find it to be more cutesy than disgusting, but I am sure there are plenty of listeners who would not share my views on this. These people will not like Time in the slightest.
Oh, and it’s a concept album too! A sci-fi concept album! I probably should have brought that up earlier. What from I can tell, the “plot” (and I use that term loosely) of this album follows some guy from the year 1981 (the year this album was released, coincidentally!!) who is kidnapped by some time-traveling nogoodniks and sent to the year 2095 for some reason that is not really explained. He tries to have sex with a robot, misses his girlfriend a whole lot, and I think is sent back to his own time in the end having learned absolutely nothing. I guess the future is a pretty depressing place, and he doesn’t like it there so much. So he sings about going back to 1981 a whole lot, and then he does. I guess that’s it? Don’t ask me, I am not a genius raconteur like Mr. Jeff Lynne.
But let’s just forgo all of that right now. Time, despite its near-crippling corniness, is a good album ’cause it’s full of those fun and catchy melodies Mr. Lynne and company have always been known for. How can we, as a nation, deny the sheer hookiness of epic rockers like “Twilight” and “Hold On Tight,” the adorable reggae-tinged “The Lights Go Down,” or the wonderful balladry of “Rain Is Falling” and “21st Century Man”? We can’t, we can’t. These songs are so good that you can easily ignore their silly lyrical themes – I mean, I think “Rain Is Falling” is about a time machine or something, but who cares when the melody is just so good?? That’s “Telephone Line” quality, my friend. There are also some neat moments of moodiness here, like the piano melody of “Ticket To The Moon” and the dark synth patterns of “Another Heart Breaks.” Then there is what I would say is my favorite song on the album, “The Way Life’s Meant To Be,” with its lovely flamenco-styled guitar and a melody worthy of A New World Record. What a catchy song! It reminds me that my favorite songs on this album are the ones that sound like “classic” ELO: songs “Rain Is Falling” and “Twilight” would probably fit right in there with their 70s work. But again, that is a somewhat presumptuous thing for me to say, considering that I have barely heard any of their 70’s albums in the first place! Man I should get on that.
There are a couple songs that should be brought to your attention, however. Those would be “Yours Truly, 2095” and “Here Is The News,” far and away the two corniest songs on this record. Mr. Vigeant himself singled these two out just for their totally silly lyrics, and I have to agree with him. The former is a rumination on the protagonist’s new robotic future girlfriend, described as he writes a letter back to his human girlfriend in 1981 (“I met someone who looks a lot like you / she does the things you do / but she is an IBM”). My favorite lines: “She has an IQ of 1001 / She has a jumpsuit on / and she’s also a telephone.” The latter song – easily the most ridiculous on the album – is meant to be a newscast from the year 2095, broadcasting a whole lot of FUUUUTURISTIC events (“The weather’s fine, but there might be a meteor shower”; “A cure’s been found for good ‘ol rocket lag”) over an insistent synth beat and random spoken-word snippets from FUUUUTURE TELEVISION. These are moments of such pure cheesiness that I just can’t help but love them. Suffice it to say, if you can brave these two songs, you are probably going to enjoy Time just fine; if not, I guess I can’t blame you.
But y’know – in the end it’s just a fun pop-rock record. 45 minutes long, full of 3-to-4 minute songs that won’t wear out their welcome. Nothing that’s going to blow you away I’m sure, and there’s plenty to scoff at here for fans of music that isn’t totally embarrassing and dated. But you cannot argue with these melodies, man! They are just so good. I found Time to be a very entertaining trip down melody lane (ha ha) and I am sure you will, too. I’m not sure if this album would appeal to many outside of the hardcore ELO fanbase, but that’s just their loss, huh?
So thank you Ben for recommending this album, and I hope this review rights the horrible ways I have wronged you in the past. I also thank you for not requesting another comic review, which I am sure would have turned out horrible (not because of you – because of ME). That goes for anybody who may request a review from me in the future: do not ask for more comic reviews, ever, please. Not that you would anyway.
So let’s end this with the video for “Twilight,” full of all those early-80’s lightshow effects you all love so much.