Stanley Suggests Electric Light Orchestra’s Hidden Gem: Time

Stanley Suggests Electric Light Orchestras Hidden Gem: Time

Lyn Stanley, Staff Writer

When I was a kid, I was a sponge for music. Anything my parents played I was immediately interested in and I spent hours downloading my dad’s and mom’s CDs onto a nugget-sized USB that served as my only connection to music for years. My dad was a big fan of the Smiths, AC/DC, Journey, and all other kinds of typical dad music. My mom, on the other hand, was my window to artists like Elton John, Daryl Hall & John Oates, and, more importantly to this review, Electric Light Orchestra. 

Electric Light Orchestra, if you weren’t already aware, is an iconic band that is most well known for their albums released in the 70s. Their music evolves along with their discography, and each one has a distinct sound that the band has cultivated alongside whatever feel they were trying to bring out in the specific album. 

You probably know some of their popular music like “Mr. Blue Sky”, “Don’t Bring Me Down”, “Livin’ Thing”, “Evil Woman”, etc. However, when I try to talk about my favorite album of theirs, nobody seems to recall it. The album in question is their 1981 album, Time

This album has everything you could ever want. Fabulous instrumentation with strings galore, in tandem with a futuristic theme that was popular at the time. What sets it apart from ELO’s other albums is the way that it has a specific theme and it sticks with it. 

Welcome to the Future

The album opens with a grandiose instrumental-only track (there is a robotic narrator, but since they aren’t singing I’m gonna say it’s instrumental only) simply titled “Prologue.” It serves the same purpose that the opening instrumentation of a musical would and gets you ready for the thematic storytelling of this album. It almost reminds me of being in a planetarium. That’s just how big it feels. It makes you feel small with how grand it is, which makes sense due to the space-esque, futuristic theme. 

Just on the border of your waking mind/ There lies another time Where darkness and light are one/ And as you tread the halls of sanity/ You feel so glad to be, unable to go beyond/ I have a message from another time                  -Electric Light Orchestra’s “Prologue””

You are then immediately and smoothly transitioned into the first song of the album with sung vocals. “Twilight” is extremely underrated. I love it to death. It just stays so upbeat and the drums in this song are so well done. There’s a great amount of blending between traditional rock instrumentation and some more unique stuff, like all of these synths that make you feel like you’re in the cockpit of a ship rocketing towards some futuristic civilization.         

“Yours Truly, 2095” is our next track and I have interpreted it as a man falling in love with some kind of artificial intelligence. That premise alone makes it a smash hit in my eyes, but the refrain where the song opens up and they sing “Is that what you want?” sends you towards the dystopian concept of something that is programmed to assist you being able to fall in love with you, or the futility of falling in love with something that could never understand you. It’s like if they turned “2001: A Space Odyssey” into a rom-com. 

I don’t love “Ticket to the Moon.” It’s just a depressing ride to the moon where this guy is like, “I’m sad because of the moon or whatever.” I don’t know, it’s just not interesting enough until you hit that 3:00 minute mark where the song picks up and gets some good feeling into it. The build is too slow. If this song was only the final half I’d enjoy it, but alas, it is not. 

Longing for Those Days Gone By 

Now, in contrast to “Ticket to the Moon,” “The Way Life’s Meant to Be” feels much more like an adventure set on Earth. It almost gives a Wild West vibe, where someone is pondering how much the world has changed. I guess that is the whole theme of the album, the effects of time on the world around us, and how it could change, but this song handles the whole concept much more in its entirety. The heavy percussion in this song moves it along quite nicely and the chorus is engaging. Since the song is about wanting to go back instead of forward, it’s fitting that it’s made up of the more traditional instruments like a tambourine and has a lack of synths. 

“Another Heart Breaks” is exceedingly dull, and that’s all you have to know. It probably is there to serve as a transition back to the future, but I hate it and don’t think it should even be there. Just. ugh. 

“Rain Is Falling” is much more ballad-y than the other songs. It follows the same arc as “The Way Life’s Meant to Be,” where the song has someone who longed for the naturalism of Earth. The lines, “With their brand-new time transporter / They’ll think maybe I fought to get away / But with all their great inventions / And all their good intentions, here I stay,” tell the story of someone who shunned the futurism of their modern-day and retreated from it to relive the nostalgia of the days they were with the person they’re longing for in this song. I love the subtle electric guitar in this song. It adds a nice mellow layer to the melancholic yet hopeful feel of this song. 

“From the End of the World” IS THE BEST. If you liked “Twilight,” this song isn’t gonna just knock your socks off, it’s gonna blow your mind into particles. The backing vocals in this song are just so on point, and it, for me, is a very hype song. There’s some clean piano that moves you from chorus to the next verse, and the audio layering in this song is so good. They jam so much into this song, but it never comes close to being too much, as it just heightens your experience to the max. 

“21st Century Man” emits a similar vibe to “Rain is Falling”, but more so from the perspective of a man who has everything because of the circumstances he was born into but still can’t be happy. This touches on the idea that we don’t know what the future holds and even if it is the best thing we could imagine, there will still be things we find ourselves missing, or wishing for. Regardless of our advancements or pasts, it’s human nature to wish for what we can’t have. The song itself is a little bit boring, but it’s a nice calming song in comparison to its predecessor and the vocals of the song are pleasing when given the spotlight. 

Coming to Terms With Reality 

“Hold On Tight” is the pièce de résistance of Time. The chorus of this song is so good, which is the reason why it lives on as the most famous and notable song from the album. It ties up the loose ends of the theme from this album by acknowledging how no matter how long the human race lasts, nothing will ever be perfect, and, regardless of how much time passes, the most important thing is to remember what makes life worth living– your dreams. The composition almost reminds me of a diner, but it stays engaging and has an awesome electric guitar. 

“Epilogue” is a callback to “21st Century Man” with some very sorrowful electric guitar and echoey vocals. It just reinforces the idea that while the world might, at times, be a sad place, you have to remind yourself that it’s all just part of the passage of time.