Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark Architecture and Morality Review

Released 2007.  

BBC Review

OMD deserve respect and adoration for their contribution to British pop music.

Amar Patel 2007

After a delay in 2006, New Romantics old and new can enjoy the highly anticipated release of OMD’s Architecture and Morality, remastered and enhanced with DVD footage.

This third album from the bruised nucleus of bassist/singer Andy McCluskey and keyboardist/electronics enthusiast Paul Humphreys is often regarded as their seminal work, not least because it achieved critical and commercial success: over three million sales and several top 10 hits. Its predecessor, Organisation, for all its sonic ambition, was overly challenging; and its follow-up Dazzle Ships lacked as many memorable songs.

As the reformed group prepares to tour the UK in May (2007), there is no better time to reconsider their contemplative, surreal and at times rather austere soundscapes, reminiscent of early 80s contemporaries including Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode, The Human League and The Cure.

Crucially, despite similar penchants for stark and portentous drum pads, sparse chiming keys and historical references in their lovelorn lyrics, OMD never achieved the same level of recognition, either here or aboard. Similarly their lineage to Bloc Party and the like goes unnoticed.

Considering that OMD had been long-time collaborators in the late-70s working as VCL XI on 'digital echoes' of Kraftwerk and Eno (employing tape collages, home-made kit-built synthesisers, and circuit-bent radios) they certainly possessed the requisite vision and creative compulsion. So a second coming of the album is important.

Highlights include the winsome songwriting of Souvenir and She’s Leaving plus the meditative instrumentals Architecture & Morality and Sealand. The bonus tracks are by no means fillers either, as Sacred Heart illustrates.

For a band whose music is best enjoyed, as their name suggests, in the invisible shadows, an accompanying DVD is something of a liability. Indeed, upon cursory viewing it serves little purpose except to exhibit dodgy clothing, even dodgier dancing (witness McCluskey during their 1982 Drury Lane performance of Julia’s Song) and cringe-worthy miming/posturing in the music videos. Still, all the hits are impeccably performed live and 80s nostalgia junkies will be satisfied.

On the whole, OMD deserve respect and adoration for their contribution to British pop music.

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