Jeff Lynne's Elo, Alone in the Universe - album review

Nick Coleman reviews Jeff Lynne's Elo's new album 

Nick Coleman
Saturday 07 November 2015 18:25 GMT
Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra
Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra (AP)

The Electric Light Orchestra is dead; long live Jeff Lynne’s ELO. As corporate re-brandings go, this won’t shake the City.

But the City will enjoy the music while it fails to shake, for this is your echt ELO in all its familiar state of sub-Beatlesy woe: bunched, airless, thuddy production; felted walls of instruments shugging through short songs structured with a high rate of harmonic turnover, topped by Lynne’s affectless pop-craftsman’s nose-voice, singing supra-melodic songs about dreams and heartbreak and the wonderment of youth, then springing a secondary melody on you with a carefully fingered, even more affectless guitar solo …

We’ve been here many times before. We’ve heard the Orbisonian quasi-bolero of “I’m Leaving You”, the Lennon-meets-JS Bach descending bass line of the nostalgic “When I Was a Boy”, the pseudo-funky eternalism of “Love and Rain”, the maudlin love-chorusing of “All My Life”, that dustbin-lid drums-plus-strings chug which seems to drive every song, whatever its tempo, with the same matey implacability – we’ve heard them in our bones all our lives, as if they’re part of who we are.

But that is partly Lynne’s point. Pop is eternal in the way that individual lives are not. Or it can seem to be, when done properly. Whether his form of “properly” meets with your approval will, of course, depend on your capacity to perceive virtue in the familiar and the sentimentally melancholic (and in brevity: Alone in the Universe clocks in at roughly 35 minutes’ duration).

After all this time, Jeff Lynne certainly deserves the benefit of any doubt.

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