Tuesday, May 21, 2013

OMD Are English Electric

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark are one of the original 80s synth pop bands that are synonymous with classic 80s sounds. Their songs throughout the golden age of the 80s (1980-87) are bright points of light that trace moments and emotions with a poignancy that is still resolute today. Looking into the past music from OMD one witnesses the evolution of synth pop, music takes on new forms while staying true to it's emotional centre.

The OMD experience always came across to me as a more cerebral experience than the usual chart synth pop. Their songs of obtuse subject matter, telling stories from other ages while still remaining intimate with the listener is a something very few bands consistently created with the same kind of success. The way an OMD experience was crafted told a story through synthesised hooks and vocals full of honest emotion and I'm very pleased to say that their latest record, English Electric, keeps all these facets as prominent in 2013 as they were in 1983.

The opening introductory passage leads into 'Metroland' which brings electronic ages together in a manner that is full of reverence and delivered with a triumphant melodic fanfare. One of the greatest aspects of this record on the whole is the way OMD have incorporated  some more modern elements while remaining true to their original blueprint. The marching percussion of 'Metroland' underpins delectably vintage synth sounds while the vocals of Andy McCluskey sound as magnificently timeless as they did in the 80s.

Rarely has the combination of vocal and synthesizer been so instantly recognisable than it was in the first age of OMD. An instant recognition occurs with their sound and this is still the case. The music on this record could not have been made by anyone else. This becomes hugely apparent in 'Night Cafe', as the melodies wash over the setting as the golden McCluskey tones caress and welcome you back to another time; a time that the OMD magic creates in each song.

Interludes are placed throughout English Electric like blurred sign posts pointing in a direction different to our current trajectory. Travelling through pieces like 'The Future Will Be Silent', 'Decimal', 'Atomic Ranch' as well as the introduction are points of electronic music history that are presented as dalliances that contrast beautifully to the main songs. A recounting of a circular history traversing generations to come back to it's origins.

And it's when 'Helen Of Troy' begins that all concepts of time become irrelevant. OMD's penchant for giving personal stories to historical incidents and personalities in a modern context is ever so wonderfully realised once again. These concurrent thematics make the music even more authentic, a continuing thought which music is spun around to create an aural web of complete beauty.

The album takes on much more grand inspirations for 'Our System' which comes across like an evangelical call to unite. Percussion is jarring and dramatic while choirs take things skyward before a monumental collapse brings everything crashing back to earth. Throughout English Electric runs a theme of humanities intimate relationship with technology and it's recurring failure. 'Kissing The Machine' describes the lust and passion we can have for something incapable of reciprocating and succinctly packages this into a piece of poignantly perfect synth pop.

OMD work their magical melodies to even greater heights through the back end of record. Emotions are bared with a raw affinity in 'Stay With Me' as Paul Humphrey's vocals are utterances of powerlessness while melodies bring an incredibly uplifting feeling of hope against great odds. 'Dresden' is possibly my favourite experience on this record as the melodies feel completely unbridled and this is then reflected in the accompanying instruments as well. The energy is vibrant and colourful musically, with a much less positive but no less energetic story in the lyrics. It's OMD magic in it's most refined and essential form; beautiful, tragic but thoroughly invigorating.

English Electric completes with the aptly titled 'Final Song'. Delivered as a cautionary tale of reflection this eulogy is full of biting lyrics over a musical background of glorious slow motion bossa nova. This epitaph resonates beautifully with it's looped vocal details. This idea is taken even further into oblivion in the bonus track 'No Man's Land'.

One of the most wonderful things about this record is that it sounds and feels like a classic OMD record. This may sound simplistic, but when one considers the amount of 80s producers who follow modern trends at the expense of their 80s soul English Electric shines like beacon that is true and authentic. Every detail on this album works, the songwriting is superb and the story of each track is told in an honest and engaging way. I can but hope this leads the way for more classic 80s producers to go back to their roots and do what they do best.

OMD's English Electric is available on iTunes here and is very highly recommended album from Synthetix.FM. This record brings back so many wonderful memories while creating new ones simultaneously, it's 80s music done to perfection in 2013 by one of the original pioneers of classic synthpop.


  1. Beautiful review. One small correction: the vocals on Stay With Me are by Paul.

    Don't miss the beautiful bonus track, No Mans Land:


    1. Thank you! I've corrected this error. Much appreciated!