wed 20/10/2021

Reissue CDs Weekly: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Reissue CDs Weekly: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Botched reissue of 'Junk Culture', OMD’s 1984 retreat from the experimental

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark in 1984: blissfully unaware of the future havoc to be wreaked on "Junk Culture"


OMD’s fifth album, Junk Culture, followed 1983’s Dazzle Ships into the shops. Where that was experimental, fragmented, wilful, used found sounds and, in places, eschewed melody and traditional song form, 1984’s glossy release was recorded at Montserrat’s swish Air Studios, the facility founded by George Martin which was favoured by Dire Straits, Elton John and Paul McCartney. Dazzle Ships was influenced by Stockhausen. Junk Culture featured the mambo-esque calypso “All Wrapped Up”, a weedy echo of early Eighties chart funsters Modern Romance.

Of course, ditching the challenging in favour of embracing the undemanding is part and parcel of pop. It often happens after a potentially demanding piece of art is a – relative – lack of success compared to the established track record. Junk Culture had its moments, but it did not build on the classic Dazzle Ships.

This Deluxe Edition reissue of Junk Culture spreads the album over two discs. The first includes the album in its original running order; the second includes the free single which came with the album, B-sides, tiresome 12-inch single versions and some demos.

'Junk Culture' did its job. It restored OMD to their position as a chart-friendly band

The liner notes make it clear that OMD’s first extra-UK recording experience was protracted. Although now thought of as a pioneering electropop band, there was “a more organic feel to the material.” After time in Montserrat, they moved to a studio in Brussels to complete the album. Work was also undertaken at Hilversum, in the Netherlands. Producer Tony Visconti was asked see what he could do with the proposed album. In the end his contribution was limited – he suggested adding brass to some tracks. While Junk Culture was clearly a difficult album to birth, it instantly spawned the hit single "Locomotion" and all seemed right in OMD’s world.

Junk Culture did its job. Or the job their label Virgin wanted. It restored OMD to their position as a chart-friendly band. The winningly obtuse Dazzle Ships was judged a heroic failure. After "Locomotion" charted, "Talking Loud and Clear" and "Tesla Girls" were also drawn from Junk Culture and became hit singles. This is the point where this reissue becomes fishy.

Anyone familiar with Junk Culture will know the album version of "Tesla Girls" was edited for issue as a single. Here, the single version is included on Disc One. Album track "Love and Violence” is also included in a shortened form. What purports to be a reissue of the album isn't. Was no one at Universal, who issued this, either checking the masters used or even aware of what the album actually was? These two instances are not the only problems: fans cognisant with the nitty-gritty of OMD have gone into the many issues with the Junk Culture Deluxe Edition in forensic detail on Amazon.

This isn’t OMD’s best album, but it should have been produced properly for reissue. Get this if you need the demos and unreleased songs, but otherwise don’t bother. Find an original pressing. Copies including the free single can be picked up on the internet from £1.99.

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