I remember this album being released. The publicity surrounding it, though not over-generous, suggested that there was a lot more to come from Foxx and co. Instead, Gary Numan stole their commercial thunder, admitting as much at the time, with his sci-fi fantasies, before Ultravox underwent a major personnel change and a more commercial approach. This album, it must be said, suffered from being a few years ahead of its time. In general, this band were always out of place, a bit like a group of sophisticated Germans plunged into Clash-era Hammersmith. 'Systems Of Romance' pulses at times with the same fire as much of contemporary new wave, but without the street-cred of the era. Meanwhile, David Bowie's higher-profile music was charting overlapping territory. Ultravox, wedged in a gap somewhere between the two, were shoved to the margins.
In truth, though this is a brave, innovative record for its era, it is not one of the greatest albums ever made when it comes to content. The tortured guitars, eerie keyboard backgrounds and Foxx's defiant delivery, coupled with some beautiful lyrics, can't hide some mediocre instrumental arrangements. 'Slow Motion' and 'Can't Stay Long' fill the senses, but the three tracks that follow are more like bad new wave.
The second half of the album is a different matter. Unusually, this is much stronger, varying between the hard-hitting industrial beat of 'Maximum Acceleration' and the eerie closing track, 'Just For A Moment'. In the year of Grease and The Boomtown Rats, Ultravox took risks and paid for them, but they delivered potent images of what was to come.