OMD – English Electric (album) (100% Records)
Strap on your seat belts and prepare to be taken on a glorious ride through nostalgia. Scouse Synthpop legends, OMD (aka Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) return with their twelfth studio album, ‘English Electric’ – their first since 2010’s ‘History of Modern’ and the second to feature the band’s reformed classic 4-piece line-up (previously not heard together since 1986’s, ‘The Pacific Age’).
On ‘English Electric’, OMD refine, recapture and master what they do best crafting their strongest work in nearly two decades. A concept album of sorts, the 12 songs that make up the album revolve around a George Orwell or Aldous Huxley meets Kraftwerk futuristic dystopia complete with several interludes such as “Please Remain Seated”, “Atomic Ranch”, “The Future Will Be Silent” and “Decimal”, which aid in creating the album’s vision.
After a brief intro (“Please Remain Seated”) the album’s first single, “Metroland”, emerges (read our review of “Metroland”). The Kraftwerk (think “Europe Endless“) influence that characterised much of OMD’s 1980 debut self-titled album is back and its mechanical precision is perfectly contrasted with lush synth melodies and Andy McCluskey’s impassioned vocals. The sound is modernized with a steady dance beat and at 8:34 minutes in duration its motorik rhythms only serve to make the song’s final 90 seconds even more epic. Guaranteed to both elevate and engulf the listener with its wave of emotion, here McCluskey’s vocals soar – in fact, we’ll go so far to say that McCluskey’s voice has never sounded so good.
“Night Café” follows and (re)introduces us to the OMD most people associate with (e.g. “If You Leave“). The Kraftwerk-esque rhythms play a lesser role and are this time combined with sweeping, orchestral synths to create a brilliant, hook-laden OMD pop gem. ‘English Electric’ however doesn’t get any more perfect than what surely has to be the album’s second single, “Helen of Troy”. Beautifully produced with lush 80’s characteristics, this moody number is a text-book Synthpop classic with McCluskey’s crooning vocals taking it to the next height.
The Keane-like “Our System” follows in a similar fashion but further emphasizes the band’s knack for heartfelt and nostalgic balladry while “Stay With Me” takes it another step further managing to just stay on the right side of earnestness.
Although one could make the claim that after several songs in succession set at the same pace and mood the album could benefit from a jolt of energy, we argue that on ‘English Electric’ OMD focus entirely on their strengths – that being writing mid-paced, hooky and nostalgia-inducing Synthpop. Its consistency is one of the album’s many strengths.
The brilliant “Kissing The Machine” is another pop gem characterised by its unmistakably Kraftwerk inspired synths right down to the Juno synth melody. “Dresden” finally picks up the tempo; driven by a distorted bass guitar line (no, not a synth bass) it shares more in common with 2010’s ‘History of Modern’(think “If You Want It”) with its modernized take on the band’s trademark sound while still retaining the pop magic.
An absolutely brilliant and utterly enjoyable ride. For of course different reasons it, along with the debut album from Port St. Willow (read our review of ‘Holiday’) and the new one from The Knife, is right up there as the Sound Advice album of the year so far.
Where ‘History of Modern’ hinted at a return to former glories ‘English Electric’ completely nails it from the melodies to the precise production choices. Very few bands are able capture the magic of their commercial peak but OMD have done that and then some in a vibrant, creative and inspired way.
Listen to “Metroland” below: