Rock GPA: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [part 5]

Orchestral Manœuvres In The Dark – Organisation | 1980 – 4

Having enlisted Gong’s Mike Howlett to re-record their breakthrough single, “Messages,” it was naturally left to his hands to helm the follow-up album as well. Its title was yet another nod to Kraftwerk by the group as it was named for the early band that Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider recorded one album with in 1970 that became the precursor to Kraftwerk.

The pace was moving quickly at OMD central. Their debut album had been largely the product of material previously written during their teenaged years, with much of it dating back to the OMD precursor, The Id. This was usually the time for the dreaded sophomore jinx to rear its ugly head, but OMD had already been writing new material while the first disc was being pressed up. Andy had done some research on WWII aircraft for the writing of “The Messerschmitt Twins,” and during his reading he became fascinated by the story of the Enola Gay, the B-29 superfortress that was named for the mother of the pilot, Col. Paul Tibbets…oh, and it also dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Dindisc supremo Carol Wilson heard the new song and had picked it as the pre-release single to launch the album. Andy McCluskey, who wrote the song was surprised to hear that his partner, Paul Humphreys did rate the song very highly. Nor did their manager, who thought it was too pop oriented…but nevertheless considered it a strong commercial move. Beset by this negativity, McCluskey’s confidence began to waver and he wanted Howlett to remix it. He ended up re-recording Andy’s vocals as well and the resulting single kept up the top ten momentum that their last single, “Messages” had begun. Better still, the tune topped the charts in Italy, France, and Portugal. OMD were taking flight.

The song quickly made an impression with its fast paced drumbox beat with a crucially oscillating percussion riff that pingponged between the two channels for maximum stereo spread and stimulation of the listener’s hemispheres. Then they unleashed the keyboard hook and two measures later the drums kicked in with a crisply paced 4/4 beat, played this time on real drums by Malcolm Holmes, who had only guested on one track on the previous album. He was now the third wheel on the OMD bus.

This one was ear candy of an infectious sort. 3:37 of perfect technopop with machines firing away in perfect synch with a traditional rhythm section. The reedy timbre of the Korg Micropreset leads were unabashedly winsome. This was all the better to contrast greatly with the dark lyrical content, with its references to radioactive contamination [“this kiss you give is never ever gonna fade away”] and simply the conceit of naming a harbinger of a new and horrifying level of destruction after one’s mother. That notion alone could probably bankroll a whole building of analysts for who knows how many years. How lucky for us that OMD wrote this song instead. It’s typical of the McCluskey mindset in that it observes a phenomenon and comments ambiguously on it to provoke a reaction from the listener.

It’s cooly dispassionate but in recent years, when I hear the wordless middle eight and its four explosive drumblasts from the kit of Mr. Holmes, I shudder and weep at the destructive power the Manhattan Project set free from its Pandora’s Box. This terrifying event ushered in a doomsday scenario that was all to real for the minds of humanity trying to cope with the implications… and this song had a great beat… and you could dance to it.

Next: …The Deep Cuts Begin Here

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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