Ultravox - Rage In Eden (Deluxe Re-issue, Chrysalis Records)

Ultravox – Rage In Eden (Deluxe Re-issue, Chrysalis Records)

September 1981 was a defining moment for me in my formative years. I was eleven years old and at some point in that month, I decided that music was more important to me than anything. I’d caught the bug so badly that, for many years, I wrote down the UK Top 40 singles chart every week, frantically trying to write down the songs as the DJ (probably Mike Read, Simon Bates or Peter Powell at that stage) counted them in reverse order. If I recall correctly, Adam and the Ants were number one on the first chart I wrote down. And I’m pretty sure this long player was riding high on the album chart at the same time.

It’s interesting to me now, to listen back to Ultravox‘s Rage In Eden, released in that very month and which has just been reissued in deluxe style with either a double vinyl record or a CD boxset depending on your preference. The reason it’s interesting to me is that it sounds so much darker than I remember. This is more like a dark November evening kind of album rather than one from the middle of a bright Autumn. It’s very much one of those albums that are best absorbed while lying alone on a bed in the dark with a persistent rain exacerbating the gloom outside.

Ultravox were always an interesting band, of course. It’s a shame so many people dismiss the work they put out after John Foxx left, because, as great as those early albums admittedly were, the body of work that the band went on to craft with Midge Ure at the helm were just as great, just in a different way. The songs on Rage In Eden are almost proggy at times, but they’re never so far up their own arse as to be inaccessible. Both its singles, ‘The Voice‘ and especially ‘The Thin Wall‘, were just commercial enough to break into the UK Top 20, though with typically ominous lyrics: “And those who sneer will fade and die / and those who laugh will surely fall /
and those who know will always feel their backs against the thin wall

It’s a cold album. But cold in a good way. In the same way that Springsteen’s Nebraska‘s starkness elevates it up to his greatest heights. I feel the same about Rage In Eden. It’s gloriously ominous sounding, but at the same time, it’s weirdly uplifting and invigorating.

Of the other tracks, the seven and a half minute ‘Stranger Within‘ is arguably their dark, brooding masterpiece, menacingly pulsating, and with lyrics worthy of a terrifying supernatural thriller: “You stand on borrowed time, your sweating palms and chilling brow / Your wide-eyed panic makes you laugh, you cry and laugh / Freeze until the noise decays, a shuffle from behind a door / Your throat is tight, it makes you choke and smoke and choke / Eyes will grow accustomed to the dark, a stifled scream that won’t come out.”

The other true standout here, on an album FULL of standouts, is side A’s curtain closer ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)‘ which is probably the absolute epitome of the much talked about “light and dark” that is lacking on so many records. Rage In Eden truly is their masterpiece and the band know it.

With this re-issue, you get the original album, Steven Wilson‘s 2022 stereo mix of it, A-sides, B-sides and live tracks including a 1981 show from Hammersmith Odeon. If you’re a collector, then the white vinyl release is an absolute must.

Rage In Eden is out now through Chrysalis.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.