Friday, January 23, 2009

Reasons why the saxophone is not the work of the devil No 1

Ultravox! - Hiroshima Mon Armour

"Somehow we drifted off too far / communicate like distant stars"

Tucked away amongst songs filled with the bile, aggression and horror of the emptiness and banality of modern life is the wonder that is 'Hiroshima Mon Armour', possibly one of the most achingly beautiful songs of the post-punk age, a paean to everything innocent lost.  Beginning with the soft, melancholic chunter of the drum machine, then the meandering and eerie synths kick in before the saxophone makes its entrance.  But what a soft and affecting entrance it is, low and subtle rather than the the honking devilish solo that was to become the staple of the 80s.  John Foxx's strangely disaffected croon only adds to the atmosphere as the song rumbles along at a slow and stately pace (the lyric 'riding intercity trains / dressed in European greys' is for me the best description of the images that the rhythm evokes).  Even the lengthy improvisation on sax at the end manages to preserve its dignity - this is the most Polite and English of sax solos, never becoming unrestrained and not Getting Too Carried Away.  This song was notable for me in that it proved to me that saxophones were not always Bad and that Ultravox pre-Midge Ure were infinitely superior.

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