Record Review: OMD – English Electric [tin – part 1]

100% Records | UK | 2xCD+DVD+7" | 2013 | 538007792

100% Records | UK | 2xCD+DVD+7″ | 2013 | 538007792

OMD: English Electric UK Collector’s Tin 2xCD+DVD+7″ [2013]

CD 1 [album]

  1. Please Remain Seated
  2. Metroland
  3. Night Café
  4. The Future Will Be Silent
  5. Helen of Troy
  6. Our System
  7. Kissing the Machine
  8. Decimal
  9. Stay With Me
  10. Dresden
  11. Atomic Ranch
  12. Final Song

CD 2 [demos]

  1. Atomic Ranch [02.05.11]
  2. Helen Of Troy [24.02.12]
  3. Future 1 [14.05.12]
  4. Stay With Me [Idea 3]
  5. Hopper 1
  6. Dresden [05.02.09]
  7. Future 2 [v 1.3]
  8. Hopper 2 [16.05.12]
  9. Jupiter [Our System] [21.05.11]

7″ Single

  1. Our System
  2. Frontline

DVD

  1.  Interview
  2. Track By Track
  3. Animated Videos [3]

The new OMD DLX ED album arrived just before my long break from blogging. I’m enjoying the new album a lot. It sidesteps the faux pas of “History Of Modern” while opting for a more homogenized sound. More importantly, there are no songs salvaged from girl bands he was writing for in the 90s! HOM was 10 great songs saddled with three I eventually skipped through after a certain point. Even so, it hit this OMD fan like a bolt from the blue. HOM is by far the album I’ve listened to the most compulsively since I was a lad. It remains to be seen if this album can pull the same gravity, but the last one was the release that marked the end of the band’s 14 year period of silence. Today I’ll jump into the album proper and see where my footing lands.

Lead singer Andy McCluskey warned that glitch sounds were informing his creative direction for the album a year or two earlier on the OMD forum, and the first sounds that were released from the album was for the brief, “interlude” track “Decimal.” Fans inferred that “English Electric” was shaping up to be another potentially divisive album like “Dazzle Ships.” But the track itself was strongly redolent of Kraftwerk, with synthetic voices offering the listener a chaotic deluge of helpful information. I immediately thought of “The Telephone Call” from “Electric Cafe” as reflected in a hall of mirrors upon hearing this.

I found that intriguing, but I resolved not to hear any further pre-release material so as not to detract from the album’s impact. Mr. Delayed Gratification; that’s me in a nutshell. I was happy enough not to be hearing MOR slush such as the previous album’s “If You Want It” even if the piece offered was as indebted to Kraftwerk as ever. Several weeks later, the track “Atomic Ranch” also dropped. Tongues wagged in that it was another sonic collage and not a reassuring classic OMD melody.

OMD fans were buzzing that another “Dazzle Ships” was definitely in the offing. Pundits were issuing spit takes over the temerity of the band deliberately reveling in the obscure against all odds. It remained until a month prior to the album’s April 8 release until the band issued the first single from EE. “Metroland” was on the album in an expansive 7:30 length, but was edited for single release, obviously. There was a download bundle available with the LP cut, the B-side [“Great White Silence”], the 7″ edit mix, and four remixes. I opted instead for the only physical format, a vinyl 12″ with the LP cut and the B-side. I pre-ordered the 12″ along with the DLX ED tin for delivery after the album was released. I may get the remixes later if the budget materializes [not likely anytime soon].

“Metroland” doesn’t seem like its 7:30 length at all to me and I’m more than fine with its Ennio Morricone meets “Europe Endless” vibe. The melody lines sounds so expansive and open while the sequencer riff it’s built upon is tiny and crystalline. The contrast builds artistic tension that sucks me in. But this is the second album in a row that has had a pastiche of “Europe Endless” on it.

Sure sure. It’s my favorite Kraftwerk song as well, but hitting that button twice in a row smacks of a rut. Additionally, many of the songs on this album are built upon such sequencer patterns and at the end of the day, I have to give the nod to the previous album’s “The Right Side” because it went the distance in being emotionally darker and more ambiguous that the [Kraftwerk] source materials were. It brought more to the table that embarked on its own direction than this song does. “Metroland” is definitely a pleasure-inducing earworm, but the melody overwhelms McCluskey’s remarkably bitter lyrics for all of its jaunty dignity. “The Right Side” offered a better contrast between lyrics and music for all of its “Europe Endless” DNA. I literally had no idea the lyrics were so downbeat since the music overwhelms them.

The album begins with “Please Remain Seated,” a collage track that evokes the Japanese language samples in “Crush,” while being Chinese voices this time, since this is not the future we’d been promised. “The Pacific Age” that OMD sang about in 1986 did happen; but the oriental nation holding all of the financial marbles turned out to be China and not Japan. That sense of what the future has turned out like versus what was promised was the thematic foundation for this album. Andy McCluskey discussed this topic on the OMD forum for the last two or more years, and at least this time there was a theme to the album. “History Of Modern” was basically an effort to see if they could write material again. Given that the bulk of the material was McCluskey’s songs, this was inconclusive. It did speak volumes though, that one of the best tracks on that album was the one that Humphries and McCluskey wrote while sitting in a room together [“New Holy Ground”]. So the effort was made to work more like a unit this time.

I like the “interludes.” they break up the album nicely, and the running time of 43 minutes makes me want to listen to it a lot. Too many albums overstay their welcome; this one walks a fine line and leaves me wanting more. How many groups have decided that since a CD holds 74 minutes, that there is an irrational need to fill it completely? [I’m talking to you, Robert Smith!] OMD’s previous album got even better once I slimmed it down to 48 minutes or so by skipping the three bum tracks. There’s no such technique needed here.

“Night Café” is a winsome dollop of OMD electropop that revisits the Edward Hopper milieu last seen on the cover of 1985’s “Crush” album. In a typical OMD gambit, the cheery melody belies the pangs of hurt contained within the lyrics. This is another thread that runs through the album that builds upon the foundation of “the future isn’t what it used to be” that the album was built upon.  This is touched upon in a broader societal sense on some tracks, but on this one, these thoughts are used metaphorically for a personal future. One where love didn’t pan out as expected.

Next: …What does the future sound like?

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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6 Responses to Record Review: OMD – English Electric [tin – part 1]

  1. Echorich says:

    Sitting here in my vacation apartment in Madrid, I’m indulging in some downtime between walking from shops to places of interest on a cool Spring early evening. I put English Electric on the iDevice and pulled PPM up on my blogger feed. Serendipity that you chose EE to be your subject!
    I have held a similar view of HOM, still finding it, flaws and all, to be miles ahead of much of the pop which came out the same year. It renewed my faith in OMD.
    English Electric reinforces that faith enormously. Metroland is perfect pop. It makes me stop and listen when it comes on and yes, is the shortest 7+ minutes song I have ever heard! The interludes take me back to my love of the Architecture + Morality — Dazzles Ships era that I hold so close. Dazzle Ships sealed a lifelong admiration for OMD – even if their flirtation with John Hughes jeopardized it for a time.
    Night Cafe goes miles to correct the mis-turn of the Crush era. All just may be forgiven. Looking forward to part two…

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Stay tuned for the rest. I have many thoughts to air regarding EE. This may be a three-part post. I was going to do an OMD Rock G.P.A.® but decided that it would come too close on the heels of the 7-part BSOG deconstruction series for my poor readers. Had I not taken almost two weeks off, maybe it would have flown. Enjoy Madrid and I hope you enjoy all of the jamon.

      Like

      • Echorich says:

        Alas, alac, I am a Pescatarian – no mammal meat since 1998 and only the occasional winged creature. But believe me I am spoilt for choice when it comes to eating in Spain! I am finding EE the album to beat on my “thoroughly impressed” list for 2013.

        Like

        • postpunkmonk says:

          20 year vegetarian myself, recently celebrating full blown veganism as of this year. I recall that dining in Spain was heavily skewed towards pork in 1999. Never a fish eater. That made dining a little tough. Especially in our villa in Andalucia. Madrid at least has that killer macrobiotic restaurant, La Biotika.

          Like

          • Echorich says:

            For my birthday I celebrated with my best friend at Diego Guerrero’s El Club Allard…2 Michelin Stars and the best molecular gastronomy this side of El Bulli. Infact, Guerrero chose our menu and then came out to thank us for dining with him. Definitely the dining experience of my life to date.

            Like

            • postpunkmonk says:

              Echorich – Welcome back! Here in Asheville we have Curaté, with chef Katie Button, who was the first American to serve at El Bullî. Her story is amazing but so is the food she serves in Asheville.

              Like

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