Review: Ultravox - Ha! Ha! Ha!
An unexpected blast from left field, Ultravox kicked major post-punk booty in 1977 on their second album while punk was still burning. Ha! Ha! Ha! is a far departure from the glam rock and melodic constructions of Ultravox. Ha! Ha! Ha! probably didn't sell well only because their audience was primed and ready for Roxy Music+, not loud fast rules. Joy Division fans have long pointed to the Warsaw demos as the band's punk experiment. Few know it, but Ultravox kept up with them step for step on Ha! Ha! Ha! (both sessions were from 1977).
What drives Ha! Ha! Ha! is a pounding Boogie Woogie pub rock feel and chaotic walls of noise. It's like Jools Holland arranged most of the songs but never bothered to record his keyboard parts. The walls of noise are part Velvet Underground, part No Wave. Together it's manic and quite danceable.
On a few tracks you get a whiff of "Sleepwalk" from their fourth record, which is a great riff to use when needed. The few mid-paced tunes end with an added panicked intensity as if making up for lost time. "Hiroshima Mon Amour" is the best known song from the album, and it's lushness did set the tone for their future works. At this point Ultravox is not yet a synth band by any means. They beat the crap out of standard instruments while using keyboards mostly for harsh drones and pounding rhythms.
They have their Eno moments but Ha!Ha!Ha! is not a pretty record (as in weak). It's a great punk record more people should know about. This ain't your puffy shirt new romance crap here, folks. This is great noise you can pogo to till dawn.