The Music the Machines Make: ‘Systems of Romance’ by Ultravox, 1978

By K.E. Roberts

London’s Ultravox was John Foxx’s band for three increasingly brilliant albums. Their debut, 1977’s Ultravox!, is an uneven but essential distillation of Roxy Music, art-rock-era Brian Eno (who produced, along with Steve Lillywhite), prog, minimalist electronica, and dub. The same year’s Ha!-Ha!-Ha!, on the other hand—a mere eight months separated the albums—is a focused and unsparing gnashing of teeth…

Whitley Strieber’s ‘Communion: A True Story’, 1987

Whitley’s Strieber’s Communion is another formative object for me. Well, maybe “formative” is a bad choice of words. After all, I was 12 when the shelves of every bookstore I frequented groaned with the weight of the uncanny Grey staring out at me from the book’s cover. But Communion distilled and reflected a deep-seated childhood fear of UFOs and aliens that I’d had since a very early age…

‘For You’ by Tatsuro Yamashita, 1982

Tatsuro Yamashita is one of the most famous musicians from the City Pop genre, an eclectic blend of rock, funk, jazz, and disco that was omnipresent in 1980s Japan. To me, listening to City Pop evokes feelings of speeding down a Tokyo freeway on a sunny day or dancing in a neon lit disco somewhere in Shibuya…

Double Exposure: ‘A-Z’ by Colin Newman and ‘Positive Touch’ by The Undertones

By Richard McKenna and K.E. Roberts

It must have been difficult to imagine, when art-punk band Wire’s guitarist and vocalist Colin Newman released his first solo record, that he could have much to add to the evocation of the strange tensions of contemporary life that Wire had elucidated over the course of their first three LPs: Pink Flag (1977), Chairs Missing (1978), and 154 (1979)…