A-HA, OMD & TOM BAILEY Live

The opening night of a-ha’s 31-date Electric Summer tour yielded plenty of surprises, as Barry Page discovered…

The home of Kent County Cricket Club, the Spitfire ground has been doubling up as a music venue since Elton John brought his Red Piano tour to the beautiful, historic city of Canterbury in June 2006. Twelve years later, three acts synonymous with pop music’s greatest decade – the 1980s – played to a largely enthusiastic crowd on a balmy spring day.

Since his return to the pop music fray in 2014, following a lengthy absence, 62-year old Tom Bailey has become something of a permanent fixture on the festival circuit, delighting fans and nostalgia-hungry crowds with a selection of hits culled from the back catalogue of his former band, the Thompson Twins. A warm-up concert at SUB89 in Reading in August 2014 – which this writer was lucky enough to be present at – marked the start of a journey that will culminate with the release of his first ever solo album, Science Fiction, next month. “It’s exciting,” he says, “because rediscovering the ability to play live and write pop music has been part of a personal transformation. I started off full of fear and all sorts of ‘oh no I can’t do that, and I can’t do that’. But, little by little, I’ve rediscovered that it’s okay. It’s fun and it’s really interesting.”

Boasting outstanding cuts such as ‘Ship Of Fools’, ‘If You Need Someone’ and 2016’s comeback single, ‘Come So Far’, Science Fiction is a fine album that fans of his former band will undoubtedly be pleased with. Also included on the PledgeMusic-funded new album is a track titled, somewhat prophetically, ‘Bring Back Yesterday’, a title that seems to perfectly encapsulate the nostalgic mood of the Kent crowd who, rightly or wrongly, expect to hear the hits. As Bailey told The Guide in 2016, “You’re known for your best work so it would be foolish for me to walk out to a crowd and say, ‘Here are ten songs I wrote last week’. You have to earn permission for that.”

During their mid-80s heyday, which included a memorable performance at Live Aid with Madonna on backing vocals, the Thompson Twins racked up a slew of hit singles. Sadly, the lowly 45-minute slot ensures that Bailey and his fabulous all-female band – which includes Emily Dolan Davies, a former member of The Darkness – can’t play them all. But the allocation is lengthy enough to remind the crowd that the Thompson Twins produced some truly classic pop singles in their pomp, including ‘Hold Me Now’, ‘Doctor! Doctor!’, ‘You Take Me Up’ and their first Top 10 hit, ‘Love On Your Side’, which still raises a smile with its clever interpolation of 1982’s ‘In The Name Of Love’. The arrangements are largely true to the studio recordings, but US hit ‘King For A Day’ is presented in a slightly slower, bossa nova style; replete with lyrical tweaks (“Diamond rings/ And all that bling”). The visuals feature a combination of graphics and lyrics, and the band also daringly throw in the Latin America-inspired current single, ‘What Kind Of World’, which includes some infectious Cuban vocal samples. The band endure some software problems which results in some occasionally off-key vocals, but overall it’s a very enjoyable set that is well received by the sun-baked crowd.

Equally adept on both the festival circuit and indoor venues are synth-pop pioneers Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, who had actually once supported the Thompson Twins on a lengthy US jaunt – The Tour Of Future Days – in late 1985/early 1986.

Since the band’s official reformation in 2005, OMD have enjoyed something of a career renaissance; rivalled only by that of Gary Numan’s. As the social media reaction will later attest, the band win a plethora of new admirers after an outstanding 70-minute, hits-packed set.

“Tonight, Matthew, we’re gonna be a Blues Brothers tribute band,” declares singer and bassist Andy McCluskey, before launching into their first Top 10 hit, ‘Enola Gay’. By the time of the band’s arrival on stage – which is still facing the glare of a powerful early evening sun – the throng has significantly swelled, and the well-rehearsed band feed off the energy and enthusiasm of the audience. Some early sound problems are eradicated once a fresh microphone has been installed for set perennial ‘Tesla Girls’, but a confident and jovial McCluskey is undeterred as he cajoles the crowd into pogoing along to ‘History Of Modern (Part One)’, a highly energetic live favourite that’s essentially about the end of mankind (“Everyone you love/ Everyone you hate/ All will be erased and replaced”).

Whilst it’s a sprightly McCluskey who largely provides OMD’s focal point, keyboardist Paul Humphreys is also afforded a turn in the spotlight as he arrives centre stage for a run-through of the band’s final UK hit of the 1980s, ‘(Forever) Live And Die’.

“I don’t think I’ve ever played at a cricket pitch before… with or without pads,” announces McCluskey, before launching into ‘If You Leave’, the huge US hit that formed part of the soundtrack for the classic Pretty In Pink movie. It’s become something of a divisive song amongst OMD’s fans since its release in 1986, but there’s no denying the quality of 58-year old McCluskey’s vocal and Martin Cooper’s saxophone solo on this mid-set number. Such is the band’s proficiency, one concert-goer flippantly suggests that the band are miming!

A longstanding part of OMD’s live set over the years has been what McCluskey has termed the ‘pastoral section’, frontloaded with a triple header of Top 5 hits from 1981’s classic album, Architecture And Morality, which still remains the pinnacle of their career. On the Humphreys-sung ‘Souvenir’, McCluskey takes a now-customary wander around the stage as he picks out the simple bass notes, while ‘Joan Of Arc’ and ‘Maid Of Orleans’ showcase the considerable talents of drummer Stuart Kershaw, an often overlooked figure in the history of OMD, despite having co-written some fabulous songs over the years. Since stepping into the breach following the unfortunate departure of original drummer, Malcolm Holmes, Kershaw has added a fresh dynamic and, with his powerful drumming, has become an integral part of the band’s live set-up.

‘Talking Loud And Clear’, which Duran Duran’s John Taylor once described as having a ‘nursery rhyme’ feel, gives McCluskey something of a breather after a typically frenetic workout during the climax of ‘Maid Of Orleans’. There’s a slightly clumsy end to the track and a few quizzical looks between members, but no-one seems to notice. “We must be doing something right,” announces McCluskey. “There’s no queue at the Prosecco tent!”

When the band’s original line-up disbanded at the end of the 80s, McCluskey embarked on a solo journey; utilizing the OMD moniker, but with mixed results. The excellent Universal album proved to be that particular era’s swansong, but it produced one bona fide classic single in ‘Walking On The Milky Way’, which the Canterbury crowd are treated to. In concert the band haven’t quite been able to replicate the magic of the studio recording and the lack of the Hannah Clive backing vocal sample further exposes its frailties, but it’s well received by a crowd who are clearly receptive to the song’s nostalgic tones.

Whilst the set leans heavily on the hits, the band indulge the crowd with the title track of last year’s critically-acclaimed 13th studio album, The Punishment Of Luxury. Whilst some of the lyrics are questionable (“Can I have my cheque please, Sir?”), the track boasts a memorable Kraftwerkian melody, and the “hey! hey! hey!”s provide another opportunity for the audience to interact.

There’s a return to the hits with the Caribbean-flavoured ‘Locomotion’ and a double-header of singles from 1991’s Sugar Tax album, ‘Pandora’s Box’ and ‘Sailing On The Seven Seas’, while the band’s oldest song, ‘Electricity’, rounds the set off in style.

It’s now almost 40 years since Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark formed – something the band will commemorate with some special shows in the autumn – and this rapturously received set certainly consolidated their reputation as one of the finest live acts around at the moment.

“It’s a huge privilege to be able to go out and play in front of enthusiastic audiences 30 years down the line – not a lot of artists get that opportunity” – Magne Furuholmen


It’s been almost four months since a-ha completed their MTV Unplugged tour at the O2 arena. The process of reimagining key songs from their vast back catalogue has clearly reenergised the Norwegian trio, and much of the new set list on the opening night of the Electric Summer tour expands on this approach. “You have to reinvent things,” Pål Waaktaar recently told The Yorkshire Post. “It has to feel fresh, so even the ones we always play, you try to give them a different spin or really bring it back to the way it was at the core.” Certainly, it would be so easy for the band at this stage in their career to run through perfunctory versions of their hits, but they deserve credit for continuing to challenge themselves musically. Sections of the Canterbury crowd are not so receptive to some of the new arrangements, and the band are understandably rusty after a four-month break away from the live stage, but it’s nevertheless a fine set, with some intriguing twists and turns.

By the time the band appear at 8:30, the temperature has noticeably dipped. Featuring the same line-up as the MTV Unplugged tour – sans multi-instrumentalist Lars Horntveth – the band launch into ‘Cry Wolf’. Morten Harket endures some problems with his in-ear monitors, a sight that his audiences are well used to witnessing. “It’s about trying to hear what I’m doing myself,” he once told the Norwegian journalist, Jan Omdahl. “And because I use the voice over such a large spectrum – not only high and low – but also in intonation and levels of sensitivity, it demands a lot. It’s a shitty job for the soundman to work with me.”

Whilst the set leans heavily on the band’s singles, deep cuts such as ‘The Weight Of The Wind’ get a much welcome airing, as does Magne Furuholmen’s ‘This Is Our Home’, a beautiful new song which was debuted during last summer’s shows in Giske.

Other tracks that haven’t been played for several years include ‘The Blood That Moves The Body’ and ‘Minor Earth Major Sky’, which boasts a more electronic foundation than its studio counterpart. But perhaps the biggest surprise of the set is the inclusion of ‘Train Of Thought’. Not the version of the band’s third Top 10 hit that most people are used to, but an arrangement that’s closer to the original demo recorded at John Ratcliff’s Rendezvous studio circa 1983; replete with alternative lyrics and a distinctive guitar riff that was later used on ‘Cold River’ (see 1990’s East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon).

Elsewhere, ‘Manhattan Skyline’ is presented in a more stripped-back arrangement and boasts a more ambient introduction. Towards the end of the song, as Harket gazes admiringly at Waaktaar’s guitar playing – which is excellent throughout – he misses his vocal cue; a sign perhaps of some opening show nerves.

Set mainstay, ‘Stay On These Roads’, features a lovely cello solo and some fabulous organ flourishes, while ‘I’ve Been Losing You’ includes a sneaky snatch of The Doors’ ‘Riders On The Storm’ in the song’s dramatic climax.

The crowd are a little subdued throughout, and there are some audible moans and groans about Harket’s apparent failure to interact with the crowd in the same way as OMD’s loquacious singer had done in the previous set – it’s a criticism that has followed him around for years. “I’ve never been uncomfortable being a frontman,” he told The Guardian in 2016. “I’ve always known that to be my position, but I’m not a showman. I’m not an entertainer, I’m an engager.” Furuholmen remains the band’s onstage spokesman, and he manages to rouse the crowd for a finale that includes the band’s only UK No.1 hit, ‘The Sun Always Shines On T.V.’, and James Bond theme, ‘The Living Daylights’.

Since its inception in a Manglerud nursery school basement in 1981, transatlantic hit ‘Take On Me’ has seen many changes, culminating in a beautiful ballad arrangement premiered last year. This time round, the band return to the version most people are familiar with, but with some funkier guitar elements. It’s the final number of the evening and, despite some of the criticisms – with one disgruntled fan even claiming that they have lost the plot – the band have delivered once again.


Tom Bailey set list: Love On Your Side / What Kind Of World / You Take Me Up / King For A Day / Lies / Lay Your Hands On Me / Doctor! Doctor! / Hold Me Now

OMD set list: Enola Gay / Messages / Tesla Girls / History Of Modern (Part One) / (Forever) Live And Die / If You Leave / Souvenir / Joan Of Arc / Maid Of Orleans (The Waltz Joan Of Arc) / Talking Loud And Clear / Walking On The Milky Way / The Punishment Of Luxury / Locomotion / Pandora’s Box / Sailing On The Seven Seas / Electricity

a-ha set list: Cry Wolf / The Blood That Moves The Body / Minor Earth Major Sky / Lifelines / The Weight Of The Wind / Crying In The Rain / Foot Of The Mountain / Analogue (All I Want) / Train Of Thought / Stay On These Roads / This Is Our Home / Manhattan Skyline / Hunting High And Low / I’ve Been Losing You / The Sun Always Shines On T.V. / Scoundrel Days / The Living Daylights / Take On Me


All photographs by Barry Page

Special thanks to Sara Page


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OMD + TINY MAGNETIC PETS Live at Guildford

OMD return to Guildford after a lengthy absence

The last time Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark performed in Guildford was in June 1985 at the Civic Hall, prior to the release of their sixth studio album. In fact, this particular stop on the Crush tour was only the third time they had played in the large Surrey town; the first time as support to Gary Numan back in October 1979. The Civic Hall has since been demolished, and replaced on the same site by the impressive G Live venue; the scene of a largely triumphant 11th stop on the band’s 18-date UK tour.

Tiny Magnetic Pets

Support arrives courtesy of three-piece electronic act Tiny Magnetic Pets who deliver an impressive half-hour set that exhibits their array of electronic influences; largely pitched between David Bowie’s experimental late ’70s period and the more melodic inflections of acts such as Kraftwerk. Indeed, the Dublin-based trio have been picking up some very favourable attentions in Germany, with former Kling Klang resident Wolfgang Flür featuring on their second full-length album Deluxe/Debris. But it’s OMD’s Andy McCluskey who can be credited with adding the Irish band to the bill; a further endorsement of the band’s proliferating synth-pop credentials.

The Pets’ 7-track set largely draws from this well-received album, with their attractive singer Paula Gilmer providing the primary focal point; confidently straddling the stage as keyboardist Sean Quinn studiously unravels a broad palette of electronics. Percussionist Eugene Somers, meanwhile, cuts an equally engaging figure; providing some impressively taut rhythms. Gilmer possesses both an engaging personality and an appealingly pure voice, and the relaxed Saturday night crowd respond positively.

Highlights include the captivating ‘We Shine’ (from 2015’s Stalingrad EP) which, pleasingly, sounds like a Yazoo/Visage mash-up. And then there’s the epic set-closer ‘Semaphore’. The band recently told The Irish Times: “We hit the stage like a rock band. People expect politeness, but that isn’t us – you have to rock it out when you go on stage.” The performance of ‘Semaphore’ certainly displays an exciting degree of showmanship, as well as acting as a summary of the band’s multitude of influences; bristling with Die Mensch-Maschine electronics, the foreboding noir of early Human League, and the more abstract leanings of Neu! It’s an enjoyable set and 30 minutes soon pass… as good a sign as any of a decent support act.


Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

“As a band we still have a lot of energy to tour the world, but for obvious reasons we can’t play everything, so what we choose to play each night is always a constant dilemma” – Paul Humphreys

With such a rich and varied back catalogue to choose from, the dilemma of putting together an OMD set list must get increasingly difficult; particularly in view of the fact that some of their more recent output has being favourably compared with the best of their earlier work. Tonight’s set list features a deft selection of hit singles, deep cuts and newer songs.

By the time OMD’s set is announced with an ephemeral, yet effective, introductory track (a hybrid of two of their latest album’s more abstract pieces, ‘Art Eats Art’ and ‘La Mitrailleuse’), capacity in the standing area has swelled to near-capacity. There’s a relaxed vibe amongst the audience, who can almost sense that something special is going to happen.

Whilst The Punishment Of Luxury doesn’t quite tick all the boxes in the same way that its predecessor English Electric did in 2013, the album has given the band their highest chart placing since 1991’s Sugar Tax, and attracted some of the best reviews of their career. So it’s not a great surprise that the band possess the confidence to kick the set off with two six-minute-plus numbers. Singer Andy McCluskey stands with his back to the audience as the brooding melancholia of ‘Ghost Star’ begins proceedings, slowly building from its La Düsseldorf-meets-‘Stanlow’ foundations. It’s an unusual starting point, but it works. It’s followed by the more uptempo – and playful – ‘Isotype’. Bursting with Kraftwerkian melody, it offers a welcome contrast to the set opener’s more melancholic tones.

McCluskey straps on his bass guitar for a double-header of set staples ‘Messages’ and ‘Tesla Girls’, the latter the source of much amusement – both on and off stage – as keyboardist Paul Humphreys fluffs some of his backing vocals (“He started singing different words at the end!” a bemused McCluskey tells the crowd). The band recover for the 3-chord (C-G-F) tour-de-force that is ‘History Of Modern (Part One)’, and McCluskey invites the crowd to pogo along to a song that’s essentially about the end of the world. One of the highlights from the band’s 2010 comeback album of the same name, it’s no surprise that it’s become something of a regular set fixture in recent years.

‘One More Time’ is another 3-chord affair (G-C-D) that offers the band another opportunity to showcase their new album (thankfully we’re spared the rather gimmicky ‘Robot Man’). On record it’s somewhat stilted and formulaic – like Arcade Fire at their most pedestrian – but it works brilliantly in a live setting, with Humphreys’ glistening synth work particularly impressing.

One of the interesting facets of this tour is the set list vote, which offers fans the opportunity to vote for a song to be played from a choice of three. Tonight we’re offered ‘The New Stone Age’ and ‘She’s Leaving’ from Architecture & Morality and ‘Pandora’s Box’, the band’s last Top Ten hit (in 1991). McCluskey tells us it’s a close vote, with 8 points separating third from first place… but it’s ‘She’s Leaving’ that wins through (by a single vote).

A brace of lead vocals from Humphreys (on ‘(Forever) Live And Die’ and ‘Souvenir’) allows McCluskey some respite before the show’s “pastoral” section, which features both ‘Joan Of Arc’ singles and some excellent drumming from Stuart Kershaw on both tracks. McCluskey may not quite dance like an “electrocuted aardvark” these days, but his seemingly boundless energy is impressive as he cavorts the stage during the finale of ‘Maid Of Orleans’. “Just a little tip for you,” he tells the crowd. “Don’t try that in front of your teenage kids!”

As a contemporary version of ‘Time Zones’ blasts through the sound system, the four members of the band venture front of stage for a special version of the classic b-side ‘Of All The Things We’ve Made’ (later revamped on 1983’s Dazzle Ships), with Kershaw pounding a single drum. For the purists in the audience, who favour the band’s pre-Junk Culture output, it’s a moment to savour.

Somewhat disappointingly, previous album English Electric doesn’t get a look in as the band integrate newer songs into the set. We get the band’s rather bland new single ‘What Have We Done’ (Humphreys’ touching lament about putting his dog to sleep) and, later in the set, there’s the Kraftwerk-fuelled title track, ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’, featuring some slightly clumsy observations about modern consumerism. The crowd love it, though, and gleefully join in with the “hey! hey! hey!”s.

It’s a crowd-pleasing array of hits that close the main set, including the Caribbean-flavoured ‘Locomotion’ (a single that has divided fan opinion over the years). Martin Cooper, always a steady and reliable presence on stage, performs note-perfect saxophone parts on ‘So In Love’, as well as a wonderful keyboard solo on ‘Sailing On The Seven Seas’, the song that kick-started OMD’s ‘solo years’ in the 1990s. The set ends with a rapturously-received ‘Enola Gay’.

The band soon return for a decidedly curious encore. On record, ‘Walking On The Milky Way’ is a wonderfully produced slice of Beatles-flavoured meditation on growing up, but it doesn’t quite work in a live capacity, and the absence of the Hannah Clive vocal sample doesn’t help. But, the run-through of OMD’s last significant hit receives an enthusiastic response as McCluskey stoops to a recumbent position on the stage. “I’m still twenty-four in my head,” he reassures the crowd. “But my knees are telling me I’m fifty-bloody-eight!” Fortunately there’s some respite as McCluskey reverts to bass-playing duties for ‘Secret’ and Humphreys’ fourth lead vocal of the night. And there’s just enough fuel in the tank for a typically energetic version of ‘Electricity’, the band’s “oldest and fastest” song.

I’ve seen OMD perform many times over the years, but rarely have I seen them so relaxed and confident on stage. Whilst the absence of charismatic drummer Mal Holmes – due to health issues – is still felt amongst many fans, in Stuart Kershaw they have a more-than-able deputy who adds a fresh (and powerful) dynamic to the band’s live sound. It’s the sight of a reenergised band enjoying a well-deserved career renaissance, and long may it continue.


OMD set list: Ghost Star / Isotype / Messages / Tesla Girls / History Of Modern (Part One) / One More Time / She’s Leaving / (Forever) Live And Die / Souvenir /Joan Of Arc / Maid Of Orleans (The Waltz Joan Of Arc) / Time Zones/Of All The Things We’ve Made / What Have We Done / So In Love / Locomotion / The Punishment Of Luxury / Sailing On The Seven Seas / Enola Gay / Walking On The Milky Way / Secret / Electricity

Tiny Magnetic Pets set list: All Yesterday’s Tomorrows / Shortwaves / Not Giving In / Never Alone / We Shine / Here Comes The Noise / Semaphore


OMD are currently on a UK and European tour. Dates as follows:

UK
Nov 15 Bexhill – De La Warr Pavillion, Nov 17 Manchester – Acacdemy, Nov 18 York – Barbican, Nov 19 Glasgow – Royal Concert Hall, Nov 21 Birmingham – Symphony Hall, Nov 22 Gateshead – Sage.

EUROPE
Nov 25 Erfut – Traum Hits Festival, Nov 26 Hamburg – Grosse Freoheit, Nov 28 Berlin – Huxleys, Nov 29 Leipzig – Haus Auenesse, Nov 30 Munich – Tonhalle, Dec 02 Offenback – Stadhalle, Dec 03 Dusseldorf – Mitsuibishi Electric Hall, Dec 05 Tilburg 013, Dec 06 Antwerp – De Roma, Dec 08 Lausanne – Les Docks.

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All photographs, courtesy of Marija Buljeta Photography

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Many thanks to Marija Buljeta and Sara Page.


OMD – The Punishment Of Luxury

Consumerist culture receives some harsh introspection on OMD’s latest outing…

Following on from previous releases ‘La Mitrailleuse’ and ‘Isotype’, ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ represents the title track culled from OMD’s forthcoming 13th studio album.

Musically, the new song (which had only been glimpsed in snippets previously) has strident electronic rhythms and a powerful percussive foundation. It’s a good indicator that the “crunchy industrial sound” that Andy McCluskey had hinted the album was aiming for is present and correct on this particular outing. There’s also a euphoric element married to a classic electropop melody, which shows OMD wearing their German influences on their sleeve.

As with many OMD songs in the past, ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ also presents an opportunity for the band to make pointed comments – in this case taking aim at consumerism. Lyrics such as “surrounded by your broken toys/you don’t know how to make the pain just go away” and “think you’re right think you’re free/floating in your purgatory” are pretty unambiguous in their message.

As Andy himself put it in a recent interview: “All of the shit we have to deal with is only a problem that’s created for you by some suggestion that came from a marketing man or a PR job that’s been done on you. Everything you think you know was placed there by a marketing man… Everything you think you want, you don’t”.

Meanwhile, the video has a combination of neon colours and rotoscoped animation (which bring to mind the video for English Electric’s ‘Dresden’). The nods to synthwave/vaporwave are very strong, while the visuals also weave in satirical imagery aimed at social network culture. There’s also some elements of political commentary with the barely disguised animations of Donald Trump sporting buzzwords that could have come directly from John Carpenter’s 1988 film They Live (a film which also satirised consumerist culture).

The title for the lead track had originally been inspired by the painting by 19th Century artist Giovanni Segantini. The Punishment Of Luxury was part of a series that Segantini had crafted on a loose theme of ‘bad mothers’. Segantini had a strong belief in the traditional role of women and the works in this series were a commentary on women he believed had failed in that role. In fact the painting’s original title of The Punishment Of Lust suggests a much more contentious approach (and explains why Victorian audiences were subject to a more genteel name change).

It would have been perhaps a more intriguing direction for the song to head in if it had tacked closer to the themes that Segantini had illustrated. Yet at the same time turning them on their head to address the bizarre slide backwards that the modern world has experienced with issues revolving around gender. But there’s perhaps enough commentary on modern culture in both the video and lyrics here to keep things contemporary.

The Punishment Of Luxury represents the third album in OMD’s post-reformation trilogy, which had been kick-started by 2010’s History Of Modern and followed up by English Electric in 2013. In terms of sound, Andy McCluskey has stated that the band are drawing from the palette established by English Electric. “We have tried to take the EE template and go forward with it. Obviously, we write melodies and I sing so there will always be ‘OMD’ elements. We have adopted a more electronic rather than rock drum sound and some glitch sounds”.

With ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ it’s clear that OMD have, as Andy has commented, drawn from English Electric’s electropop approach and clean production style. Whether the forthcoming album can eclipse their 2013 release remains to be seen, but there’s still plenty of material for OMD fans to discuss and debate until the new album arrives in September.


‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ will be released as an exclusive 12″ vinyl on 13th October 2017. The 12″ vinyl is limited to 1,000 copies worldwide and includes a 12″ extended mix of the single (remixed by OMD) and an exclusive B-side track entitled ‘Lampe Licht’.

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The new album The Punishment Of Luxury is released 1st September 2017. The album is available to pre-order now.

OMD will also be embarking on a UK and European tour later this year. Dates as follows:

IRELAND
Oct 23 Dubin Vicar Street, Oct 24 Belfast Mandella Hall.

UK
Oct 29 Liverpool – Empire, Oct 30 Bristol – Colston Hall, Nov 01 Southend – Cliffs Pavillion, Nov 02 Ipswich – Regent, Nov 03 Cambridge – Corn Exchange, Nov 05 Leicester – De Montfort Hall, Nov 06 Nottingham – Royal Concert Hall, Nov 07 Sheffield – City Hall, Nov 09 Reading – Hexagon, Nov 10 Southampton – Guild Hall, Nov 11 Guildford – G Live, Nov 13 London – Roundhouse, Nov 15 Bexhill – De La Warr Pavillion, Nov 17 Manchester – Acacdemy, Nov 18 York – Barbican, Nov 19 Glasgow – Royal Concert Hall, Nov 21 Birmingham – Symphony Hall, Nov 22 Gateshead – Sage.

EUROPE
Nov 25 Erfut – Traum Hits Festival, Nov 26 Hamburg – Grosse Freoheit, Nov 28 Berlin – Huxleys, Nov 29 Leipzig – Haus Auenesse, Nov 30 Munich – Tonhalle, Dec 02 Offenback – Stadhalle, Dec 03 Dusseldorf – Mitsuibishi Electric Hall, Dec 05 Tilburg 013, Dec 06 Antwerp – De Roma, Dec 08 Lausanne – Les Docks.

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OMD’s Unreleased Material album set for release

There’s some good news and bad news for fans of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Sources have revealed that their new album The Punishment Of Luxury has now been delayed until Spring 2018, due to touring commitments.

The good news is that the band will finally release their much-delayed album of unreleased material, and are hopeful that this stop-gap release (set for September 2017) will appease fans disappointed with the delay of their 13th studio album.

The release has been a talking point amongst fans since the turn of the millennium. Andy McCluskey told Record Collector in 2001: “I’ve a terribly strong suspicion that someone has nicked the tapes that I’ve put aside for it. They’ve gone missing somewhere in my studio, but it is a shambles! I’m hoping they’ll turn up – there’s plenty of material there that hasn’t been released.”

Whilst the masters were eventually located, the release was put on hold following OMD’s reunion in 2005. McCluskey would go on to use some of this unreleased material on 2010’s comeback album History Of Modern (see ‘Sister Marie Says’, ‘Green’ and ‘The Future, The Past And Forever After’).

The BBC have finally sanctioned an official release for McCluskey’s excellent theme for the For The Greater Good drama. Elsewhere there are a number of demos from 1987, when the band were recording new material for possible inclusion on the 1988’s Best Of OMD compilation (originally titled Messages).

Fans will also be pleased to see the appearance of the much-fabled ‘Square Dance’, an abandoned musical sketch dating to the Dazzle Ships sessions.

Exclusive to this release is a new 15-minute remix of ‘Pulse’ and a brand new recording of ‘Walk Away’ (originally recorded for Arthur Baker’s 1989 Merge album) which Paul Humphreys has stripped of its original Culture Club-like bass line.

The Electricity Club are pleased to reveal the track listing for this fascinating 2-CD compilation, titled Sanctus – Unreleased Material 1980-1996.

CD1 1980-1988

01) Telstar (Demo)
02) Enola Gay (Unreleased Mix)
03) Square Dance (Dazzle Ships outtake)
04) Sampling The Blast Furnace (by The Partnership)
05) Southern (1985 version)
06) Heaven Is (1986 Version)
07) Stay (1986 Remix / Unreleased Single)
08) Cut Me Down (The Pacific Age outtake)
09) Cajun Moon (The Pacific Age outtake)
10) Suspicion (1987 Demo)
11) Everyday (1987 Demo)
12) If You’re Still In Love With Me (1987 Demo)
13) Never Let You Go (1987 Demo)
14) Wild Strawberries (1988 Demo by Paul Humphreys)

Bonus track:
15) Walk Away (New Version)

CD2 1990-1996

01) For The Greater Good (BBC Theme)
02) Coming To See You (early version of Walk Tall, 1990)
03) Self-Destruct (1990 Demo)
04) Resist The Sex Act (Sugar Tax outtake)
05) You’re Always Coming Back To Me (Sugar Tax outtake)
06) Sanctus (1992 Demo)
07) Next To You (1992 Demo)
08) Cruel (1992 Demo)
09) Liberator (Liberator outtake)
10) Kiss Of Death (Liberator outtake)
11) Twins (Liberator outake)
12) If You’re Still In Love With Me (1993 Version / Unreleased Single)
13) Sister Marie Gabriel (Universal outtake)
14) Jerusalem (Universal outtake)

Bonus Track:
15) Pulse (Hyper Hyper Super Super Whoopee Doo Remix)


So this article was purely for fun (check the date!) and OMD’s album The Punishment Of Luxury is still scheduled for release this September. You can read more on the album via our sister site Messages: The Punishment Of Luxury.

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OMD pic by Ed Fielding.


OMD – Liberator Revisited

“I thought this one would be edgier, but I seem to have written my poppiest album ever!” – Andy McCluskey

If you were to poll a cross section of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark fans asking them to rank their twelve studio albums in order of favourite, it’s highly likely that 1993’s Liberator is going to rank somewhere in the bottom three.
The second of a trio of 1990s solo Andy McCluskey albums released under the OMD name, Liberator has divided opinion since its original release almost 25 years ago. Despite featuring some moments of brilliance, many reviewers were damning with their criticism, declaring it as both “a collection of featherweight pop doodles” and “twiddly chocolate-box tosh”. In this article we look at the build-up to this album, and revisit its contents track-by-track.

By the time the Sugar Tax tour had ended in November 1991, the live band – which comprised Nigel Ipinson, Phil Coxon and Abe Juckes – had performed over sixty shows in Europe and the USA, including a handful of support slots for Simple Minds (who they would later support in 2009 on the Graffiti Soul tour). This was in addition to a slew of other promotional work in support of the album and its four attendant singles, including two huge Top Ten hits in ‘Sailing On The Seven Seas’ and ‘Pandora’s Box’. And, with a TV soundtrack (BBC’s For The Greater Good) to add to McCluskey’s impressive CV, OMD’s profile had not been as high since the early 1980s.

Whilst an ill-advised brace of follow-up singles – ‘Then You Turn Away’ and a remixed ‘Call My Name’ – failed to crack the Top 40, the year still ended on a high with a well-received second wave of live appearances in the UK and further dates in Europe. The dilemma facing the 32-year old McCluskey in the new year was whether to record and release a quick follow-up to Sugar Tax and consolidate OMD’s high profile, or to spend time building up a substantial pool of new songs in which to fashion an album that was as worthy of the OMD name as its predecessor. With a double-platinum record on their hands, Virgin Records would most certainly have exerted pressure on him to deliver a sequel as soon as possible. McCluskey told Future Music magazine in 1999: “I made Liberator too quickly… I was so surprised by the success of Sugar Tax I ran straight back into the studio and wrote another album!”

Production and programming duties were handled by McCluskey and Phil Coxon, the pair having become acquainted during the recording of the Sugar Tax album at the Pink Museum recording studio in Liverpool. Coxon had done some engineering work on the album and was talked into playing keyboards on the ensuing tour by McCluskey. Crucially, Coxon had also proven himself as a capable remixer, producing several uncredited mixes of ‘Sailing On The Seven Seas’ for the American market.

Confident of a repeat-success of Sugar Tax, Virgin Records invested fairly heavily in the promotion of Liberator, bankrolling two expensive videos for ‘Stand Above Me’ (filmed on location in New York) and the green-screened ‘Dream Of Me (Based On Love’s Theme)’. A large number of promotional box sets were also issued – these included a biography, 4-track audio cassette and From Factory to Liberty, a VHS video that featured a short history of the band and a documentary of the New York video shoot. As for the sleeve, the story behind this is an article in itself, with Virgin deeming the original design too risqué. Its vibrant replacement, featuring a collage of images of a Cherokee Native American, also incorporated a new OMD logo, which erased a quarter of the typeface.

HMV and Menzies declared Liberator their ‘Album of the Week’, while Tower Records, Virgin Megastore, Our Price, Woolworths, WH Smith all displayed the album in their windows – over a hundred independent retailers also featured the album prominently in store. In addition, Capital Radio ran an OMD weekend shortly after the album’s slightly delayed release in mid-June.

Following some criticism about the Sugar Tax booklet, McCluskey consented to his lyrics being printed inside Liberator, but insisted that they weren’t presented in the conventional poetry style. McCluskey was now also comfortable with his name featuring prominently, as opposed to just ‘OMD’.

Stand Above Me

With his grounding in dance music, which included remixes for Liverpudlian electronic outfit Oceanic (best remembered for 1991’s ‘Insanity’), Phil Coxon was invited to produce some remixes for the new album’s lead-off single. ‘Stand Above Me’ was white-labelled first,” recalled Coxon in 1993. “They [the record label] thought that if a trendy, hip DJ says “what’s this record?”, picks it up and it’s got OMD on it, it’s very likely he’s going to put it back down. So it was put out as ‘Stand Above Me’ by The Liberator and it worked – it fooled them all. All the DJs were playing it all the time, even the DJs in Liverpool who got copies of it.” The label’s – and McCluskey’s – faith in Coxon was vindicated when they were rewarded with a sizeable Billboard dance hit. The problem was, the remixes bore no resemblance to the actual song and Coxon’s remixes would attract a fair amount of criticism from fans throughout the year.

Backed with sparkling B-side ‘Can I Believe You?’ (which many fans favoured to the A-side), the single arrived in May 1993. Described by McCluskey as a Ronettes-meets-Status Quo mash-up, the simple 3-chord song was co-written by Stuart Kershaw and Lloyd Massett, who had both contributed significantly to the writing of Sugar Tax. It followed the same template as ‘Sailing On The Seven Seas’, with its huge drums, steady organ and throwaway lyrics. Indeed, an appearance on Top Of The Pops saw McCluskey, Coxon and Ipinson all donning guitars in a Quo-like tribute! A perfectly serviceable, but decidedly unmemorable lead-off single, it peaked at number 21 (it’s possible that it missed out on a Top 20 placing due to its lack of a second CD single).

Though the band deemed the single worthy of a place in the encores of the Liberator shows, the track hasn’t aged well and was left off the two compilation albums, The OMD Singles and Messages.

Everyday

Arguably, one of the biggest problems with Liberator is that it’s trying too hard, and the desire to spawn hits comes through in its over-fussy and cluttered production. Somewhat tellingly, McCluskey told Vox that year: “The main thing is, I hate songs that are no good, that you can’t remember the tune of. I can’t stand boring songs, and if I wrote them I’d be really pissed off with myself. I sweat blood to write songs with tunes that you can remember.” The grammatically-incorrect ‘Everyday’ is a case in point, with its cloyingly catchy melody that called to mind the Sega and Nintendo platform games of the early 1990s. It had actually started life as a middle-of-the-road ballad – which McCluskey had co-written with Paul Humphreys in 1987 – and some fans maintained it should have stayed in the vaults.

The accompanying video was a relatively low-budget affair that incorporated footage from a warm-up gig at Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre. The single flopped, peaking at a lowly number 59, and is perhaps best remembered for its haunting, ethereal B-side, ‘Every Time’.

King Of Stone

One of OMD’s great strengths over the years has been their ability to craft a beautiful melodic song using the bare minimum of chords – ‘King Of Stone’ certainly falls into this category. This simple two-chord song was one of the album’s highlights, with McCluskey cleverly switching from first to third person in the lyrics: “Once again, he’s all alone/ Here am I, the king of stone”. What lets it down slightly is the production, featuring a booming percussive loop and irritating handclaps.

Dollar Girl

Boasting a huge chorus that threatened to morph into ‘Unchained Melody’, ‘Dollar Girl’ had been inspired by an article that McCluskey had read about Russian prostitutes dealing only in American dollars. With its sequencer-heavy production and a well-used Korg M1 providing the choral effects, this one-time single contender became a favourite with the fans who favoured tracks such as ‘Speed Of Light’ and ‘Call My Name’ from the Sugar Tax album.

Dream Of Me (Based on Love’s Theme)

With mixed reviews for the album and the failure of ‘Stand Above Me’ to crack the Top 20, initial sales of Liberator were disappointing. The album would eventually spend just 6 weeks on the chart, peaking at number 14 (by contrast, Sugar Tax had hit number 3 and spent over six months in the charts). Virgin rolled the dice with the second scheduled single…

McCluskey ‘had an idea’…based on ‘Love’s Theme’, a transatlantic instrumental chart-topper for Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra in 1973. It was originally written for Sugar Tax but Barry White had blocked its release, before eventually relenting a few years later. McCluskey expanded on the story in Vox magazine that year: “He thought the hook went, “Had an idea – let’s start a love theme.” Anyway, he rang me up and said: ‘Look Andrew, this is your masterpiece, you sing what you wanna sing. But “Let’s start a love theme” – I love it. It could be a man and a woman, friends, family, countries – the whole motherfucking world!”

Interestingly, the original ‘Love Theme’ sample was used on the album version of the song (with White collecting a sizeable portion of the songwriting royalties), but erased from the Single version. McCluskey reflected to Future Music magazine in 1993: “Even after 15 years in the music business, I’m finding new ways to get screwed by people.” As a condition for the use of ‘Love Theme’, White was unfairly listed as sole writer and producer of the track.

Pedro Romahni was employed to direct the stunning video for the single. Romahni was a well experienced director who had helmed several videos for artists such as The Beautiful South, The Sugarcubes and Paul Weller. McCluskey had been particularly impressed with the video for Dina Carroll’s 1992 single ‘Ain’t No Man’, which combined meticulous choreography with clever camera trickery to create an animation-like effect.

Representing something of a departure from OMD’s traditional sound, the well-crafted single peaked at a disappointing number 24. There was an array of formats, which included two largely forgettable non-album tracks (‘Strange Sensations’ and ‘The Place You Fear The Most’).

Sunday Morning

To some, the appearance of ‘Sunday Morning’ on Liberator suggested that McCluskey was short on material. However, in the 1990s it was seemingly quite fashionable to cover songs by both Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, with the likes of Duran Duran, U2, Nirvana, Billy Idol and the much-missed Kirsty MacColl all having a crack. OMD were not averse to the odd cover version themselves (see ‘Telstar’, ‘The More I See You’, ‘Neon Lights’, etc) and had of course already covered the arthouse rockers’ seminal tale of a New York drug deal, ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’, on the 10″ B-side of ‘Messages’. Nigel Ipinson’s straight, but unremarkable, glockenspiel arrangement was faithful to the original 1967 single, while the guitar solo was provided by Stuart Boyle (who’d also played on Sugar Tax).

Agnus Dei

Used as the opening music during the live shows that year, gothic rave instrumental ‘Agnus Dei’ was the first track written for Liberator, and something of a concession to the musical trends of the era. Inspired both by a love of religious choral music and the fast-paced techno tracks of the early 1990s (see Altern-8, U96, Urban Hype, The Prodigy, 2 Unlimited, etc), McCluskey explained the track’s inception to Future Music magazine in 1993: “I like techno and rave music, but I didn’t know how it was done, so that song is, like, teach-yourself-techno. Instead of doing a generic rave track, I wanted to put its own personality there… so I threw in a sample from a Christopher Tye cathedral music CD.”

Phil Coxon recalled that the original demo was quite different to the album version: “He [McCluskey] was worried about it being too fast, and I think the culprits for putting that fear into his head were the record company advisors from the dance department who seemed concerned that really fast rave was out now.” Indeed, by the time of the album’s release, ‘rave’ music was becoming increasingly out of fashion, with discerning dance record buyers favouring the ‘Eurodance’ sub-genre (see Snap, Culture Beat, Haddaway, et al).

Love And Hate You

‘Love And Hate You’, a more conventional ‘verse-chorus’ pop song with analogue synths, maintained side two’s fast pace. It was originally conceived as a slower, reggae-style number during writing sessions for Sugar Tax, before being given something of a Vince Clarke-style makeover. McCluskey told the Telegraph fanzine in 1993: “Lyrically, it’s about loving and hating somebody – you love somebody but they drive you mad. It’s great fun – it’s a really good pop song. Probably sounds a bit Erasure-ish actually – it’s like a tough Erasure song.”

Heaven Is

Ten years after it was debuted during a short tour in September 1983 (supported by Howard Jones), ‘Heaven Is’ finally made it on to an OMD album. The original version (as documented on live bootlegs and 2015’s Junk Culture reissue) was a ‘Blue Monday’-inspired LinnDrum-heavy experiment, with McCluskey reeling off a list of things that made him tick. Much-fabled amongst OMD fans during the mid-1980s, the track was considered for inclusion on both Crush and The Pacific Age. The new version featured some lyrical tweaks, with adult film actress Christy Canyon replacing former BBC presenter Selina Scott as the object of his affections. Disappointingly, it lacked the original’s charm – over produced and permeated with more dated ‘rave’ stabs, ‘Heaven Is’ was something of an anti-climax.

Best Years Of Our Lives

By the time of the album’s release, McCluskey had been writing songs with Stuart Kershaw for over three years. “Increasingly, though I hate to say it, the way that we write has become more and more like the way I used to work with Paul Humphreys,” he admitted to Future Music magazine. “I’m sitting at the computer and Stuart’s sitting at the keyboard, he’ll start playing something and I’ll say, ‘Ooh, that sounds nice!’… his ideas are so totally different to what I would be capable of myself, so it’s exciting when he plays something that I wouldn’t think of but I know I can do something with.”

One particular idea stemming from this partnership was ‘Best Years Of Our Lives’, one of the best tracks on the album and a firm favourite amongst fans. This slow melancholic number featured one of McCluskey’s finest vocal performances, and its appearance on a 4-track sampler cassette suggested that it was considered for single release. Sadly, this never materialised, and the song was performed just once in concert at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool, August 1993.

Christine

Another track co-written with Stuart Kershaw – and originally written for Sugar Tax – ‘Christine’ was, arguably, the album’s masterpiece, with McCluskey utilising a fictitious narrative about a suicidal New Yorker who has resorted to stripping to make ends meet. The genius of the track lies not just in its beautifully vivid lyrics, but also in the way in which the production complements the tension of the song. A hip-hop-style drum loop evokes images of the Manhattan streets, while the strings heighten the increasing drama as the doomed protagonist enters the water and floats into the darkness of the Hudson river. It’s pretty bleak stuff, but classic OMD.

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Only Tears

After the superb ‘Christine’, the album somewhat limped over the finishing line with the disappointing closer ‘Only Tears’. McCluskey described the song, thus: “I guess it’s just about sadness at the end of a relationship and how you should be dealing with it.” With the line “When you lose someone you depend on” featuring in the lyrics, some fans often compared the song to Eurythmics’ 1986 hit ‘When Tomorrow Comes’.

In terms of his objective, McCluskey certainly succeeded in making an album that was more electric and 90s-sounding than its predecessor. But, with expectations so high after the enormous success of Sugar Tax, Virgin will have been bitterly disappointed by the poor return on their investment in the follow-up. Much of the blame for its poor performance has been attributed to its production, with McCluskey telling Spin Magazine in 2013: “I programmed it all myself. Then I worked with a producer [Coxon] who reprogrammed it. I wanted to keep my programming and he wanted to keep his programming, so every song had two sets. Boy, was it busy. Way too busy. That’s something that unfortunately I didn’t really get my head around at the time.”

With McCluskey and Coxon pulling the songs in different directions, it would be very easy to point the fingers at the producers. However, the main problem with Liberator is that the songs – on the whole – simply weren’t good enough. There were two notable tracks that almost made it on to the album: ‘Kiss Of Death’ was a ballad that sources close to the band raved about, and there was ‘Twins’ which had been inspired by a Life magazine article about a girl who died in a circus fire in 1946. It’s difficult to speculate whether these songs would have improved the album – McCluskey declared that they were too good to be B-sides.

One other song that could have improved Liberator was ‘Kissing The Machine’, an excellent collaboration with Karl Bartos, but this ended up on the former Kraftwerk legend’s album Esperanto (and, 20 years later, on English Electric).

The experience proved to be something of a learning curve for McCluskey, who would spend three years crafting Universal; a far superior album, but one that would ultimately close the book on this particular stage of OMD’s history.

Suggested alternative tracklisting:

Stand Above Me / Can I Believe You / King Of Stone / Dollar Girl / Dream Of Me (Based On Love’s Theme) / Agnus Dei / Every Time / Kissing The Machine / Christine / Best Years Of Our Lives


Thanks to Paul Browne and Mark Crouch

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OMD – History Of Modern

Synthpop pioneers OMD return…

And so the finest band to emerge from the Synth Britannia era return. It is the first studio album since 1986’s The Pacific Age to feature the classic line-up of Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Martin Cooper and Malcolm Holmes. The original 4-piece split acrimoniously in 1989, following the platinum-selling retrospective, The Best of OMD, the previous year. McCluskey resurrected the brand to varying degrees of success in the 1990s, while Humphreys, Cooper and Holmes formed the ill-fated band, The Listening Pool, after failing in a bid to use the OMD name. Krautrock aficionados McCluskey and Humphreys, the electronic pioneers of such groundbreaking albums as Architecture and Morality and Dazzle Ships, announced their reunion at a fan gathering in 2005 and consolidated this with successful tours between 2007 and 2009.

Sadly, no matter how the marketing team dress this up (in an eye-catching bright orange sleeve supposedly designed by long time cohort Peter Saville) it is, basically, another McCluskey solo album with some overdubs and a few songwriting contributions from Humphreys, a busy man in his own right with OneTwo, a project he formed with Claudia Brucken of Propaganda fame. The contributions from Cooper and Holmes are difficult to fathom in anything other than names on the sleeve credits whilst, somewhat tellingly, there are no vocals from Humphreys.

Many of the tracks had been demoed by McCluskey following his foray into the world of girl group songwriting for the likes of Atomic Kitten and Genie Queen. The current single, ‘If You Want It’, seems to be a hold-off from this particular period. It was co-written by the girls’ (and McCluskey’s) vocal coach Tracey Carmen who’d had a hand in the Kittens’ ‘Be With You’. It is permeated with lyrical clichés, while its musical template is unashamedly deeply rooted on the last OMD hit single, ‘Walking On The Milky Way’, from 1996’s Universal. It is an odd choice for a comeback single, but one that seems to suggest that the band’s PR are targeting other markets aside from the lucrative nostalgia circuits.

The obvious choice for a single is ‘Sister Marie Says’, a close relative of ‘Enola Gay’ that was part-written in 1981 and later recorded during the Universal sessions in the mid-90s. It was premiered at the previously mentioned fan event and dusted off by McCluskey for inclusion on the new album – it certainly improves on the original demo and brings the classic OMD sound up to date.

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And so to the rest of the 13-track album: On opener ‘New Babies: New Toys’, OMD are fast out of the traps with a New Order-esque track that mirrors the aggressive nature of earlier tracks such as ‘Bunker Soldiers’. It also sees McCluskey strapping on his bass for the first time since 1985’s Crush. It is a fantastic opening track. Sadly the momentum is lost with the single, but quickly restored with part one of the two album title tracks, which builds upon some of the lyrical themes of the ‘Universal’ single. Originally titled ‘The Big Bang Theory’, it is an enjoyable track that marries the band’s trademark choral effects with a memorable synth refrain (and, intentionally or not, a melody lift from James’ 1992 hit ‘Ring The Bells’). Indeed there are other positives on this album. Two of Humphreys’ co-writes, ‘Green’ and ‘New Holy Ground’ rank alongside some of the duo’s best work. The latter was written and recorded in a few hours as a potential B-side and echoes ‘The Avenue’ (the brilliant B-side of 1984’s top 5 hit, ‘Locomotion’). It is a reminder of how McCluskey’s melancholia used to be the perfect counterfoil to Humphreys’ intricate, yet simple, melodies… before the financial allure of America caused the band to implode.

OMD purists will be confused when they hear the beautiful ‘New Holy Ground’ alongside the likes of ‘Pulse’, an embarrassing attempt at a dancefloor filler which contains breathy, spoken word vocals from McCluskey. And then there is ‘Sometimes’, which sounds like a Moby tribute track, but with a piercing, wailing vocal from former Listening Pool backing vocalist, Jennifer John . Thankfully fans were spared when ‘Save Me’, a mash up of ‘Messages’ and Aretha Franklin’s ‘Save Me’, was dropped from the album.

The new album lacks the lyrical focus of Universal and both the musical ambition and creative urgency of the first four albums. McCluskey is far too reliant on samples, particularly towards the end of the album, and there are mixed results. There is a distinct lack of musical invention on the Moroder-esque ‘The Future, The Past and Forever After’, another track retrieved from the ’90s vaults (originally titled ‘Wheels of Steel’). The acknowledged Kraftwerk influence is prevalent on at least two songs: album closer, ‘The Right Side?’, is a satisfying 8-minute workout that mirrors elements of Kraftwerk’s ‘Europe Endless’ (and samples fellow KlinkKlang enthusiasts Komputer), while ‘RFWK’ (Ralf, Florian, Wolfgang, Karl) is a touching love letter to McCluskey’s boyhood heroes. Elsewhere, ‘Bondage of Fate’, another lyrical highlight of the album, subtly incorporates elements of Hannah Peel’s ‘Organ Song’.

All in all, it’s a disjointed effort, one that is clearly designed to reintroduce the brand, clear the decks and pave the way for the next OMD album proper. To label it as a cohesive body of work in the ilk of Architecture and Morality was a foolish ploy on the part of the band’s marketing strategists and will leave many fans – this one included – disappointed.


The History Of Modern is out now.

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