Jeff Lynne’s E.L.O ‘From Out of Nowhere’ – Review

14 Dec

Electric Light Orchestra occupy an unusual position in the hierarchy of pop; too white, too Male, too rocking to be given a poptimistic reappraisal but too camp to be treated with the reverence of say Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd. But anyone who has truly listened to ELO will attest to their almost unique genius. What else sounds quite like ‘Mr Blue Sky’? Quite that big and bright and daft? At their absolute best, ELO made songs that were as uplifting as they were overblown, as catchy as they were naff. These intersections were often indistinguishable; a song like ‘Evil Woman’ hooks you in and makes you cringe almost simultaneously.

Four years ago Jeff Lynne returned with ‘Across the Universe’, the first ELO album in over three decades, a middling collection of spongy, nostalgic pop-rock. ‘From Out of Nowhere’ is, as you might expect following a couple of years on the road, a bit more energetic and finely tuned than that record. This is still ELO but in miniature, by comparison to classics like ‘Out of the Blue’ at least. Despite sounding smaller and more intimate it does contain much of what made their 70’s material so loveable. The melodies fizz and sparkle, operatic harmonies reverberate in the background. Melodic guitar solos soar. Jeff Lynne looks and sounds almost exactly the same as he did forty years ago and the music is nearly as good as well. In particular the double punch of ‘Out of Nowhere’ and ‘Hold On’, which open the album strongly, could have been pulled from the group’s 1970s heyday.

As with most E.L.O songs, these are best observed from a healthy distance. Close inspection, particularly at the lyrics, occasionally  reveals faded colour and rust on the spaceship’s facade. The theme of nostalgia that was ultimately a little too on the nose on ‘Across the Universe’ is still Jeff Lynne’s primary preoccupation and that occasionally becomes cloying. There is a constant romantic, wistful longing for glory days, which is relatable but predictable. Better, if a little corny, is ‘Time of Our Life’ which tells the story of the band’s recent sell out gig at Wembley Stadium. That night, and the song that chronicles it, suggest that in actual fact these are the good old days for Jeff Lynne.

7/10

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