Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/27/2007
Even a subpar track like “Red Frame/White Light” has grown on me over the years. The lyrics and music may be minimal, but sometimes you don’t need a lot of unnecessary bells and whistles to craft the perfect pop song. The one moment that falls flat as a pancake is “Dancing,” a warped mutation instrumental piece that is a total failure. Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys surely must regret ever including it in this otherwise superb set of tunes.
Providing the bookends to the album are “Bunker Soldiers” and “Pretending To See The Future.” Both feature simple melody lines and overlapping vocals and are fair representations of just how much promise British music had back in 1980. As the quaint ballad with eerie tendencies, “Almost” has the sound of steam being released and a gentle vocal performance by McCluskey. It is in stark contrast to the challenging, freeform vocal he supplies on the impressive “Julia’s Song.”
The two singles released from Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark are the manic “Electricity” and a slower version of “Messages.” Though they were bigger hits in the UK than the US, they are nothing compared to the two songs that are my personal favorites, “Mystereality” and “The Messerschmitt Twins.”
The former is a fun, bouncy track that features, of all things, a saxophone solo. As for the latter, OMD’s quietest song is also the most magical. Full of entrancing tones, “The Messerschmitt Twins” is almost like a torch song because it just builds and builds. I can’t help but wonder what it might have sounded like had it been played on a bagpipe instead of a keyboard. Pure bliss, no doubt.
The duo of OMD held out for as long as it could, but after ten years, Andy and Paul would quietly go their separate ways. Andy would attempt to carry on OMD as a solo act, but after just three more albums, the profits had dried up to the point where even Andy was forced to call it a day. Try as they may, OMD was never quite able to find its footing in America, nor did they ever have the cult status other synth pop duos like Pet Shop Boys or Erasure.
Still, as far as pioneers of electronic music go, OMD will forever be at the very top of the list.