CD Title: English Electric
Label: BMG Rights Management
Much like Depeche Mode, OMD (Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys) started their incredible musical journey 33 years ago in 1980 with their debut album Messages. Now in 2013, they are back, fresher and hotter than ever, with a fantastic new single called Metroland and their 12th studio album called English Electric, which will be released on April 8th. It is also interesting to note that English Electric is the second album since the reformation of the full original band (Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Martin Cooper and Malcolm Holmes) with History of Modern in 2010.
Three years ago in 2010, OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark) made their triumphant return to the music world with History of Modern. It had been fourteen years since their last album Universal, in 1996. History of Modern though contemporary, still carried that strong hint of their classic retro sound, that not only proved that the 80's were back, but that there was still a huge and growing market for that sound. "It's bloody hard to make new music 35 years after you've started," McCluskey says. "We're fortunate that we have a recognizable style. We have a sound palette that is our own. We would be foolish to abandon that. But how do you actually do that without sounding like a pastiche of yourselves? Trying to sound like OMD but also be contemporary and aware of modern sounds and production techniques is the balancing act."
I am totally on the fence on this one. At first listen, I was disappointed by some of it, but after a listen or two more, I was starting to appreciate the more "mature " direction that OMD has taken. You still get that familiar and comfortable sound of their classic 80's fare, but with a bit of a contemporary meets futuristic upgrade. There are 12 tracks on this album. Three of them (Please Remain Seated, Decimal and Atomic Ranch) are useless wastes of space and sound like advertisements in the future, if you were to listen to them on their own. But as part of the whole English Electric album concept, they seem to work. Truthfully, I think there is really only a few strong songs on this album. A track like "The Future Will Be Silent", sounds like filler or fodder, take your pick. I LOVE OMD, but this release just seemed like they were saying "we ran out of material but had to put out a record anyway". I thought for sure from the incredible single "Metroland" that OMD was back in rare form. Unfortunately that is just not totally the case.
Now that I've shared the more negative aspects of this album, allow me to share the postive ones, and luckily, there are quite a few. If there was to be a follow up single to Metroland, I think it would have to be "Stay With Me". Though less somber than the incredibly upbeat and Metroland, "Stay With Me" is a beautiful synth pop ballad. It sounds like it would have been perfect in the 80's and would fit into any set of moody, downbeat tracks by Depeche Mode or Erasure. English Electric sounds more like their classic debut album Organisation, but it also sounds like it was produced by Erasure's master of synths Vince Clarke, as it is pure analogue heaven. "Night Cafe" and :Kissing The Machine" are also really pretty synth pop ballads, though not as strong as "Stay With Me", they still hold their own quite nicely. There is a great song called "Helen of Troy" that reminds one of "Joan of Arc" from their album Architecture & Morality in it's synthpop brilliance.
Several tracks on English Electric sounds like they could have easily been on one of their albums in the 80's like "Crush" or "Junk Culture". Most of the songs seem to effortlessly flow together on this moody synthpop album. An interesting track that has that angelic quality that most of the album has, but also is vastly unique, is "Our System". Though it is bordering on ambient and a tad bit experimental electronic, it's gradual, building progression into the climatic percussive ending, feels nothing short of grand. Though nothing comes close to their single Metroland in terms of danceable energy, "Dresden" is actually a really great track that reminds you of their classic 80's hits like "Dreaming". The last track on the album is called "Final Song", it actually reminds me of one of my favorite bands from the 80's called Frazier Chorus. Very breathy vocals and airy floating synths seem to skip on the simple bossanova beat and the overall haunting atmosphere . The female vocal reminds me of the James Bond songstress Shirley Bassey but is actually former Propaganda/Act vocalist Claudia Brucken. Claudia was actually in a band with OMD's Paul Humphreys called Onetwo.
Is English Electric the quintessential OMD album? No not even close. But it is a good, solid and memorable effort. So, if you are looking to trip the lights fantastic or dance the night away, I'm afraid you'll just have to look elsewhere or just be happy with the ultra upbeat and quite phenomenal Metroland. However, if you are looking for a collection of tasty,classy,somber,moodier downbeat Balearic tracks, and you're in the mood for something dark and delicious, then OMD- English Electric is for you.
There is a few versions available. The 2 CD set complete with Bonus DVD: Studio Interviews / Track by Track commentary / Animated Videos.
But..I'm going to go for the Super Deluxe CD, DVD, Vinyl package myself..It has so many rare and exciting extra goodies!
Collectors tin with embossed logo on lid and bottom housing:
- CD / DVD / Demo CD in 7" gatefold card fold out.
- 7" single on colour vinyl with exclusive B-side.
- 16 page 7" booklet (including lyrics and exclusive photos).
- 2 x artwork prints (canvass paper)
- 2 x photo prints (photo paper)
- Certificate of authenticity signed by band
Listen to a full album preview of OMD- English Electric
Buy OMD- English Electric (available in the US on April 23, In Europe April 8th)
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