The Way Life's Meant to Be
1979's Discovery was a major hit for ELO, but by the time of this 1981 outing, their opulent synth-heavy style just sounded out of touch. If core member Jeff Lynne is famous for "gilding the lily," at least it was usually gold he slathered his songs in. Here, it mainly sounds like his jewels are wrapped in thick, lifeless cellophane. It's too bad, because Lynne's songwriting is still surprisingly sharp, and his lyrics are exploring some darker spiritual corners. This was ELO's first album in years not to reach the top ten. "Rain is Falling" comes closest to the old, strange, magic.