Jeff Lynne's ELO: From Out of Nowhere review – it's a pleasure to have him back
There’s something rather heartwarming about the return of Jeff Lynne’s ELO. While being a semi-retired rock star, forced out of the fray by the passing tides of fashion, is no one’s idea of a hard life, it’s also not what anyone with a yearning to make music for an audience wants for themselves. It all turned round for Lynne in 2014, when Radio 2’s head of music, Jeff Smith, persuaded him to headline the station’s Hyde Park concert. Five years on, the new-look ELO have had a platinum album, played Wembley Stadium and filled multiple arenas.
It’s a surprising turn of events, as Lynne acknowledges on Time of Our Life, which recounts that Wembley show, rather in the manner of a small child telling you about their brilliant trip to Alton Towers: “As we played on it came to me / That this could be the best night we’d ever seen.” You’d need a heart of stone not to be touched by his absolute joy.
Like its predecessor, Alone in the Universe, this album is entirely good-natured, firmly in the lineage of classic ELO, without ever quite hitting the heights of the past. Sometimes you fear he’s worked with so many people he’s forgotten which ideas are his and which were theirs. Down Came the Rain has, in places, a more than passing resemblance to Tom Petty’s Walls, though at least it’s a very good song to resemble. It’s one of many pleasures here: Losing You is a delicious, stately ballad that – as good ELO songs always have done – sounds like the Beatles extrapolated to their logical extreme. Even the less appealing moments – the workaday boogie of One More Time, the bongos-and-twangy-guitar soft pop of All My Love – are elevated by Lynne’s way with extra elements: creamy harmonies, unexpected chord changes. How far this autumnal romance will go remains to be seen but, for now, what a pleasure it is to have Lynne back.