If anything, Liverpool-based synth-pop figureheads Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark are illustrative of the twenty year rule that if you wait around long enough, the stylistic current will eventually turn back in your favour. While the mid-nineties were somewhat fallow times for the band with the departure of core members Paul Humphreys as Andy McClusky soldiered on alone with a series of increasingly anodyne dance-pop centred albums such as ‘Liberator’ and Universal’ before retiring the band in 1996.
If anything though, the early noughties saw the currency of OMD’s early stripped down albums such as ‘Dazzle Ships’ and ‘Architecture & Morality’ growing increasingly with the renewed revival of post-punk and synth-pop sounds. For this reason the re-emergence of OMD’s original band lie-up in 2006 seemed perfectly timed, their cultural stock seemingly higher than it had been for decades. Since that initial reformation, OMD have gone on to release three albums that are regarded as among their strongest work, culminating in last year’s politically minded ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’.
More stripped down than its predecessor ‘English Electric’, this latest album saw them fusing the angular synth arrangements of their early eighties output with a more beefed up and crunchy presence that bears the imprint of electroclash and EBM. A few months on from the release of ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ this latest release acts as a companion album, collecting together the three singles released from that album including their respective B-sides and remixes.
As with its parent album, the imprint of Kraftwerk remains a dominant influence on the electro-house arrangements being crafted here, with opening track ‘Isotype’ calling to mind ‘The Robots’ being given a blue-eyed soul overhaul as pitchshifted vocoders and smeared out synth sequences float over gliding machine rhythms against McClusky’s curiously melancholic chorus hook. If there’s a direct mainline back to early OMD’s themes of alienation and mechanisation to the aforementioned track, elsewhere ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ appears as an extended mix that fuses zapping electro beats and abrasive overdriven synth stutters to McClusky’s multi-tracked harmonies. While there’s certainly an overriding feel of synth-pop sweetness, the harder edged programming gives the entire track more of a post-EBM feel, particularly as the dark arpeggios emerge towards the end.
Elsewhere, ‘Lampe Licht’ harks back more to ‘Replicas’-era Gary Numan as live drums power beneath fuzzed-up guitar chords and banks of frigid synths, a hint of Bowie-esque glam lurking amidst the flamboyant solos and McClusky’s seductive phased vocal, before the extended remix of ‘What Have We Done’ offers up a rare lead vocal from Humphreys, hardening up the stacked synths into a throbbing glacial wall of sound that calls to mind more recent Depeche Mode as spidery analogue synths glitter against sparse beats. While this B Sides and extras collection is most aimed at the hardcore OMD fanbase, there’s a lot here to interest anyone of the dark synth-pop persuasion.