on 26 June 2006
The previous reviewer stated his favourite albums as Kraftwerk's TEE, Reproduction and Thomas Leer/Robert Rental's The Bridge. What a star! I thought I was alone. Ha Ha Ha is not as polished as Systems of Romance but it has its moments. You will find parts of it extremely harsh on the ears and maybe the production could have been a little smoother. However there are some fantastic futurist minutes here, listen to the intro to Artificial Life, it sums up the mood in three repeated notes, a little like Interferon with guitars. Lyrically, Dennis Leigh aka John Foxx is a genius. Futurism came no better, and good as Replicas was, Foxx added romance to the decay, alienation and fear that was the subject of much brilliant music from 1977-1980. This period in music could never be repeated and Ha Ha Ha! is very much part of it. Buy it!
on 15 September 2001
"Ha Ha Ha" was unheralded upon its release in 1977; a quarter of a century later, it sounds like the great lost punk album - noisy, feedback-drenched, pissed off, John Foxx's every line a snarl. Song structures are pretty rudimentary - start slow and portentious, get loud and fast, freak out at the end - but hey, if the formula works, don't mess with it. They do provide some chill finally, in the form of closer "Hiroshima Mon Amour," a zombied-out beatbox ballad. A beautiful, chaotic, messy album, and light-years away from the mannered, mannequin eleganza of later Ultravox.
on 5 February 2011
If this album had been released in 2011, Ultravox would be hailed as genius and they would be reveried as 'the next big thing.' Unbelievably, this album was all but ignored when it first came out; proof that Ultravox were simply light years ahead of their time. John Foxx must be one of the most underated lyricists of all time. From the frantic, adrenalin fuelled, hook laden power of album opener ROckWrok to the mystical, poetic beauty of Hiroshima Mon Amour, this album is a powerhouse of diversity, innovation and original songwriting; this is genuinely exciting music. The Man Who Dies Everday is full of eerie soundscapes and slow building atmospherics. The Artificial Life features some brilliant sub-bass sonics right at its conclusion and Distant Smile starts as a surreal, ambient ballad which suddenly bursts into full on rock. Every track is simply brimming with ideas and energy. The album comes with a wonderful black glossy sleeve; all the original artwork restored and a brilliant essay regarding the story behind the album complete with full lyrics. I cannot recommend this album too highly.
on 18 August 2006
I was 16 in 77 , never heard of Ultravox! then but I was about to discover them! (donot forget the !) with "Systems of Romance" the following year. Hooked by the originality and the commercial aspect of "Quiet men", I looked then for the predecessors "HA!HA!HA!" and the self named album.
Listening to "HA!(3x)"was at this time a strange experience: hearing a distorted violin,screaaaming guitars from hell,strange keyboard noises all this on punky rythmns.Jumping from hypnotic "we are the robots" beats, to atmospheric peaceful waves, immediately after perverted by the stongest guitaristic distortion ever heard then ,untill the top of the album the orgasmic "Hiroshima Mon amour",all that was a thrilling experience.This CD is a not only one of the foundation stones of the new wave, but of the whole alternative music since 30 years. If you want originality, there you have to go...and above this Island managed to include some undiscovered jewels like young savage studio and live, quirks,another version of Hiroshima Mon Amour,everything with a remastered crystal sound ...a mesmerizing experience. What do you wait for: BUY!!!!!!
on 23 March 2011
A young innocent, I got Rage In Eden, which I quite liked, so my sister bought Vienna, which I really liked. So I bought Ultravox!, which was ok, but not what I expected, so I bought Systems of Romance, which seemed good, so I bought this...
Such a harsh, sneering vitriolic record had never graced my small, New Romantic record collection. It was awful. They swore. They mentioned doing bad things in your bedroom. Headphones on, sitting next to the stereo, I blushed as I looked at my family, quietly watching telly in front of me. The shame. They could never hear what I was hearing.
And then something happened. I realised that all the other Ultravox records were rubbish compared to this. Read any of the other reviews here to find out the details. This is a genuinely great album, not just a teenage 'hip' thing, but full of poetry, drive, beauty and angst. I have never looked back.
on 23 May 2006
Sad to relate I'm a bit of an anorak when it comes to the original '74 to '79 Ultravox! fronted by Our Lord John Foxx.
Back in 2006 I reviewed the remastered jewel case version of this LP released by Island/Universal. Gushing like a girl.
So when I noticed this version and to paraphrase Bart Simpson, "You cant have gaps in your collection". I purchased the vinyl replica pressing. I've played it on my Panasonic Home Cinema system for full neighbour melting effect, and it sounds,even with adjustments, distorted, especially on Hiroshima Mon Amour and the piano intro to Distant Smile.
I have played many remastered CDs on this system and some that are "brickwalled" to coin a phrase, do sound distorted. Strangely the original 2006 aforementioned UK jewel case version does not.....
on 19 May 2005
In the words of Foxx himself, punk's velocity was "beginning to sag" (it's from Artificial Life) in 1977. Recorded again in London in the late silver jubilee summer, the band could see the writing was on the wall and were already looking towards the next step forward.
It was the summer that Moroder's awesome I Feel Love went to number one - still one of Foxx's favourite records - and Ultravox! were already picking up on the commercial European electronic music of Can and Kraftwerk, the latter wowing a good deal of the world with their stunning Trans-Europe Express album the same year.
The young Steve Lilleywhite (former husband of the late Kirsty McColl fact fans!) was in the producer's chair for this album and he did a great job. From the explosive ebullience of Rockwrok to the manic energy of The Frozen Ones and the sleaze of Lonely Hunter, the creativity and intensity doesn't let up.
Closing the album is the exquisite Hiroshima Mon Amour. The only Ultravox track ever to feature a saxophone - courtesy of CC, a friend from another band, Gloria Mundi, two members of which, Eddie & Sunshine, later supported Ultravox live - the song has an atmosphere you can almost touch. The band kept it in the live set for ages after Foxx left (spring 1979) and they frequently did eight-minute almost industrial versions of it.
I like to believe the song is a pointer to what they knew was coming next, the new electronic music. It's strange to think that they recorded three albums in just three years but bands did just that then.
After the debut album, this was the next step but the masterpiece was to come shortly...
The opening to the opening track on `Ha! Ha! Ha!' (`RockWrok') always makes me laugh - and the inclusion of the lyrics in the sleevenotes on this remastered edition finally puts paid to my belief that Foxx actually sings "KY'ed and willing", when it's actually "Wet, wild and willing"!
This second album by Ultravox was released barely six months after their first. Produced again by a young but rapidly-becoming-experienced Steve Lillywhite, there is no let up in the aggression of the group's sound over the first four tracks. Then follows `The Man Who Dies Every Day' and the first major appearance of time Billy Currie's contorted string sound, a feature that would pay ample dividends in the early 80s. The slightly more electronic bias from their debut album is also apparent in such features as the drum machine present in `Hiroshima Mon Amour'.
The group's sound was always interesting and innovative, making them stand out from their pre-pink, punk, and post-punk contemporaries, a cross between the Clash and Roxy Music. What other group of the time could come up with the opening soundworld of `Distant Smile'?
Foxx's part-provocative, part-mocking, and part-tongue-in-cheek lyrics are a fascinating and lacerating litany, continuing to take no prisoners. `The Man Who Dies Every Day' relates how "Someone stood beside me for a moment in the rain / A silhouette, a cigarette, and a gesture of disdain." Whilst in `Hiroshima Mon Amour', we "Walk through Polaroids of the past / Features fused like shattered glass / The sun's so low / Turns our silhouettes to gold."
This remastered edition ups the playtime from the thirty-six minutes of the original to almost an hour. The six bonus tracks include the studio and a live version of `Young Savage' as well as some interesting and quite radical remixes. With copious sleevenotes to boot, this is an impressive package with outstanding sound quality.
This is an album of two extreme styles: hard-driving guitar music that's clearly influenced by the punk rock of 1977, its year of release, and the icy, electronic soundscapes a few years ahead of their time. I remember the catchy, primal rhythm of 'Rockwrok' from the time of its release, together with John Foxx's Lydonesque sneer. The next two tracks follow suit and there's even a '1-2-3-4' opening to 'Fear In The Western World', yet 'The Frozen Ones' deceptively begins with some eerie keyboard. More bizarre is 'Distant Smile', which starts with two and a half minutes of Eno-like ambient piano before the band explode into life yet again.
They then seem to shake off the punk influence. 'The Man Who Dies Every Day' is an especially memorable song couched in an impassioned performance. 'Hiroshima Mon Amour' though is the most visionary track, building upon its Kraftwerk-like percussion. The bonus 'Young Savage' is a welcome addition, another reminder of the current musical fashion. Though 'Ha!Ha!Ha!' tends to pander to the new wave, Ultravox! have the appetite for it while sticking to their usual lyrical content on western civilisation. Not one of the better-known albums of 1977, but well-worthy of investigation.
on 15 June 2014
In my opinion this is the best of the three albums produced by Ultravox when John Foxx (no relation) guided the band. Despite the image they were never really a punk band, their music was sometimes just as raw but often had more depth by including Billy Curry's violin and synths. There is a wide range of moods and styles but the album flows better than the first album. Of particular note are "Distant Smile" and "The Man Who Dies Every Day" but my favourite track from this band has to be the original closing track "Horoshima Mon Amour" which still brings a tear to my eye. A much faster and frenetic live version is also also included.
This extended version includes 6 bonus tracks including the single which brought them into the public eye "Young Savage", which is, in my view, the nearest they get to their punk contemporaries. When Foxx left and Midge Ure took the band to greater heights I lost interest in their stadium rock but was happy for their success even if I no longer cared much for the music.