tue 29/07/2014

CD: OMD - English Electric | New music reviews, news & interviews

CD: OMD - English Electric

High-end synth-pop from one of the genre's progenitors

OMD showcase shapes of the retro-future

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark are too often remembered for their musical sins. Their long career has taken multiple twists and turns including way too much watery tweeness in the mid-Eighties, then, later on, soppy, occasionally successful attempts to crack American FM radio. Many forget that initially they were one of the first electro-pop bands, Liverpudlian Kraftwerk devotees whose early work stands up beside any equivalent act of the era.

The classic quartet line-up, featuring Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphries, the creative core from 1978 until the end of the Eighties, reformed in 2005. The album that followed, History of Modern, tipped its hat to all OMD’s musical incarnations and was a mixed bag, if occasionally pleasing. Their new one, however, returns to their pristine synth-pop roots and is a corker.

The atmosphere throughout is one of wistful retro-futurism. It emanates a melancholy that the sci-fi world OMD imagined in the late-Seventies turned out to be something less romantic - no hover cars and Metropolis robots, just Facebook and gawking dead-eyed at endless videos of cats. As well as proper songs there are delicious sonic science fiction interludes, Bladerunner-ish snippets that pronounce “The future that you anticipated has been cancelled” or the glistening self-explanatory outburst “The Future Will Be Silent”. There is even an android love song, “Kissing the Machine”, co-written with Karl Bartos, once of Kraftwerk, back in the early Nineties and effectively resurrected.

Elsewhere they return to the mood and spirit of their classic “Maid of Orleans” for “Helen of Troy”, while the bass-pumping “Dresden” analogises the German city’s Second World War doom to a collapsing love affair. McCluskey’s fey voice remains an acquired taste but he’s on fine lyrical form for numbers such as “Final Song” and the cyber-flâneur observations of “Night Café”, always accompanied by crisp, delicious analogue melodies. English Electric is an album that looks backward but finds much to reinvent and is, in consequence, the best thing OMD have done in 30 years.

Watch the video for "Metroland"

Comments

"...the sci-fi world OMD imagined in the late-Seventies turned out to be something less romantic - no hover cars and Metropolis robots, just Facebook and gawking dead-eyed at endless videos of cats". Spot-on! Excellent review.

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