(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Friday, September 3, 2010

CD review - Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, History of Modern (2010)

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) is back, with their first studio album in 14 years. Best of all, they've dodged the sad fate of so many band reunions. They still remember what made their music memorable and they sound fresh even as they reach towards the feel of their earlier years. Many of these tracks have been in the works over recent years, so it's especially gratifying that History of Modern is seeing official release (20 September in the UK and 28 September in the US).

Many of the songs evoke OMD's old school synth pop sound, especially songs like Sister Marie Says and Green. Still, the band fuses in more modern club beats and electronica into several tracks. Pulse is a good example of this, along with the R&B infused sound of Sometimes, which features singer Jennifer John.

The album leads off with a catchy track, New Babies: New Toys, which sounds like retro post punk. But the following tune really sealed the deal. The first single, If You Want It, hits that classic OMD sound. The soulful repetition of the chorus is backed with shimmers of synth fills and a rich tonal wash. That chorus has a deeply triumphant feel that I came back to repeatedly.

RFWK is another favorite track. The staccato chop of the intro sets up a higher pitch electronic riff. The verses are clean as the music drops back to mostly drums and vocals, although washes fade in and the synth fill comes back. It's got a reflective feel, but the vocals bring in enough taut, emotional tension to contrast with the cooler musical feel.

The US release includes one extra track, Save Me, which mashes up the vocals from Aretha Franklin's Save Me with music from OMD's Messages (1980). This is the perfect after dinner mint to close out History of Modern. Complement it with a bottle of Lefthand's Good Juju ginger beer.

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