WHO ARE THEY? Don’t let the name fool you — Jeff Lynne’s ELO isn’t a they, it’s a he. The former Move member, erstwhile Traveling Wilbury and superstar studio rat singlehandedly penned, played and produced nearly every note on this 10-song album.
WHAT IS THIS? The 14th ELO studio release and the second since Lynne revived the name (and reportedly retooled it to thwart imitators) in 2015 after a 14-year hiatus. If the name rings a bell, that’s probably because it reminds you of their 1977 album Out of the Blue. That is not necessarily a good thing.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Pretty much like every other ELO album: Classic pop-rock songcraft festooned with synths and strings, vocal harmonies, rich arrangements and flawless production. The downside: Few of these cuts have the cheeky charm and punch of classics like Don’t Bring Me Down, Evil Woman and Sweet Talkin’ Woman.
WHAT SHOULD IT BE TITLED? ELO Again.
HOW SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? While wearing dark glasses and sitting in a room alone — the same way he made it.
WHAT 10 WORDS DESCRIBE IT? Familiar, dependable, artsy, nostalgic, multi-layered, Beatlesque, proggy, slick, elaborate, shimmering.
WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? One More Time and Sci-Fi Woman are the most energetic songs in the set, though the opening title cut, Time of Our Life (which borrows a snippet of Telephone Line) and the bluesy Goin’ Out on Me also have their moments.
WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS SAY? ‘If he got just one person to help him in the studio, he could cut his recording time in half — and potentially have twice as many ideas.’
HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO THIS? About as often as you listened to 2015’s Alone in the Universe. Which is to say: Not nearly as often as you listen to whichever one of their 40-odd greatest-hits anthologies you have.
IF THIS ALBUM WERE A TOY, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Simon.
SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL IT? Stream it first — then pony up if you can’t get it out of your head.