Rock GPA: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [part 20]

Orchestral Manœuvres In The Dark – Junk Culture | 1984 – 3.5

[continued from previous post]

Starting with an ascending synth figure over a relentless programmed rhythm and sampled horns, “Love + Violence” was a visceral, almost bluesy number that formed the first leg of what I’d call the “Stanley Kowalski” trilogy on side two of “Junk Culture.” It was fascinating hearing McCluskey articulate the inner thoughts of a rougher sort of customer that he was usually the mouthpiece for. In fact, McCluskey was more likely in the past, to have sung about an inanimate object, than a human being, so it was all terribly new for OMD. And for a band that could be as dryly intellectual and bloodless as they were, it was exciting for me to hear songs like this issuing from the band’s collective pen.

The relentless, almost stupid melody perfectly echoed the brutish simplicity of the singer’s point of view. The shrill, atonal synth solo in the song’s middle eight was a perfect touch to embody the stymied confusion and threat of violence just below the surface of the number. The only thing here that seemed familiar turf were the sampled choral vocals used for texture here. As the song peaked at its climax with McCluskey going “into the red” as he struggled to comprehend the relationship at hand, the song seamlessly segued into the latter one, which functioned as a necessary comedown from the emotional intensity of the former one.

“Hard Day” was part two of vibe building on side two. The mood softened here with the breathy sort of samples popularized by Art Of Noise on “Moments In Love” over a reggae beat from Mr. Holmes. Martin Cooper’s slightly mournful sax solo had just the right ragged edge to it to enhance the number well enough. The reliance on sax solos on this album generally stayed on this side of the good taste line this early on. If “Love + Violence” referenced blues, “Hard Day” was a lot more explicit in that vein. Both songs together make a suite of love, confusion, and conflict that was really the last thing I would have expected from this band. But the mood was continued and even heightened, following the intrusion of a relentlessly upbeat soca number that was plopped in the middle of side two for an ill-advised energy boost.

I had issues with “All Wrapped Up” as it stood on the album. OMD making an upbeat calypso track with crazy jangly rhythm guitar and a boatload of percussion was the first time that OMD had lost the plot, looking back. At the time, without the benefit of hindsight, I took it in stride, particularly as I really enjoyed this album then and now. Indeed, there are times that it vies with the previous three as one of my favorites. But as OMD began their musical slouch to Gomorrah, it was a case of both boiling frog syndrome and the painful realization that every other band I loved losing their way concurrently. The only factor of “All Wrapped Up” that fit this album side was the punch-up McCluskey threatened the person purloining his main squeeze with. Otherwise, it was bereft of any real OMD traits or artistic point-of-view.

Next: …Trash Talk


About postpunkmonk

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