For those of us who are yet to hit the big three-oh (although it's getting scarily close, kids) it's easy to forget that there is a lot more to OMD than a geeky man in an argyle jumper dancing like a goon whilst singing about sailing. In television terms, the entire 90s embodiment of the group was what is known as ‘Jumping The Shark’. Thank heavens, then, that we now have the opportunity to re-discover the halcyon days of one of what, was fundamentally, one of the finest synth-bands of the eighties.
Stark, maudlin and atmospheric are three words that spring to mind. The eponymous debut seems to draw heavily from Vangelis, and has certainly inspired Royksopp and particularly Fischerspooner more recently – the result, listening in our enlightened times, is an album that, rather than dating, has improved in its resonance – especially in tracks like ‘Messages’ and debut single ‘Electricity’.
All three re-issues include a mixture of remixes and b-sides – in this case, a cover of Velvet Underground’s ‘Waiting For My Man’ and remixes of ‘Electricity’ and ‘Almost’. The dark overtones, and almost cold-waresque themes and imagery are reminiscent of early Thomas Dolby, however this softens a little on ‘Organisation…’ which spawned the oft-sampled ‘Enola Gay’ – a good example of a more lush, heavily orchestrated sound that the group have started to mature into. There's even touches of humour, like the rather grandeous but delicious ‘Motion and Heart’.
What’s really striking at this stage, though, is the strength of Andy McLusky’s voice – standing out from the rather vacuous keyboards – full of passion and gusto – it’s an stunning juxtaposition that makes the group what it is… or at least was. Finally, we come to ‘Architecture and Morality’ an album which is certainly an one of contrast. From the opening salvos of ‘The New Stone Age’, you can hear that the trademark synths, whilst still present and correct, have been expanded still further to encompass guitars, and more importantly more imaginative production on McClusky’s vocals. It’s certainly the album that spawned the most hits – but even they contrast dramatically. Whilst ‘Souvenir’ remains a thing of beauty, ‘Maid of Orleans’ – the one everyone THINKS is ‘Joan of Arc’ sounds self-indulgent and silly now – to the point of cringe worthy. Like the first, these two albums are supplemented by b-sides on these re-issues, which is so often where OMD really shine – fuck market forces – lets see what these Fair lights can do.
Y’know. And that’s exactly it – history has been needlessly unkind to OMD (largely coz of the throwaway ‘Sugar Tax’ album) but it shouldn’t. They were amongst the greatest innovators of the new romantic era – and certainly never be considered also rans. ‘Souvenir’ remains one of the greatest songs of the eighties. OMD one of the most important bands. It’s time we all rediscovered why. Overall 8.8/10