Rock GPA: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [part 23]

Orchestral Manœuvres In The Dark – Crush | 1985 – 2

[continued from last post]

When the next song began I had a hard time believing I was hearing OMD. It started out with a stupid 4/4 drumbeat and fuzztone guitar like a song by The Cramps! Then when guitars went from fuzztone to feedback, it really sounded like The Cramps! The bass was fat and twangy. This actually sounds like it could be a track from “A Date With Elvis,” one of The Cramps touchstone albums. At least until Andy McCluskey opens his mouth.

“88 Seconds In Greensboro” was a radical inclusion on an album aiming for the soft, gooey center of MOR pop. Instead, in what would normally be the first track on side two of an album, where the most commercial single usually went, OMD had written a song about the  Greensboro Massacre. In 1979, in Greensboro, North Carolina, members of the Communist Worker’s Party protesting the KKK’s presence in the city were shot and killed by the KKK and members of the American Nazi Party. Five died and six were wounded and when Andy McCluskey saw a documentary on this on British Television [film exists of this event] he was moved to put his feelings about it into a song.

It’s as politically germane, if not moreso, than any track on “Dazzle Ships” and it is sadly more relevant today than it was in 1985! Musically, it was recorded by the band live in a single take, so this was completely at odds with the way OMD were used to working. The feedback guitar is so out of McCluskey’s comfort zone, that I’ll take a stab and guess that it’s producer Stephen Hague, who is credited with guitar as well as keyboards on the album. The Fairlight still got used here for the violins in spite of the roughness of the track. At the song’s climax the basso backing vocals that lent this song a real touch of Ennio Morricone. Finally an actual OMD song on this one, even if it did splice a lot of The Cramps and EnnioMorrisone’s DNA into the band’s own.

As the strings of “88 Seconds In Greensboro” were fading out, samples of an orchestra tuning up were segued into the mix next. What would await our ears? Would you believe… OMD re-writing Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir??!!” There was no mistaking that infamous violin riff awing away with bloody intent!  “Native Daughters Of The Golden West” was actually more histrionic than the Led Zeppelin song they were plundering! McCluskey’s vocals here were further into the red than Robert Plant’s were on “Kashmir.” Malcolm Holmes effectively channeled JohnBonham’s thunderdrums for this one.

When I first heard this I laughed at the cheek that this of all bands had shown by not only lifting a Led Zeppelin riff, but one of the band’s most iconic, cinematic hooks. It was ludicrous on the face of it then and the passage of 32 years hasn’t dimmed it one iota. But it’s the kind of ludicrous that I can approve of. In spades. If one is going to cop a Zeppelin riff, why not the best?

The next song was the final single from the “Crush” album. “La Femme Accident” was the third song in a row that relied on string textures, though these were all from the Fairlight, I assume. Since there were no string contracting credits on the album. Even so, the delightful song was an even more delicate dip into the gentle waters that previously yielded gold with the excellent love ballad [not a phrase typed much at PPM, I know] “Talking Loud + Clear.”

Apart from some rim hits, all this song has going for it are the samples of pizzicato strings, violin leads, and double bass. Given that they probably produced this on the Fairlight in Page R mode, I’ll bet the rim hit was another sample so that they could meticulously concoct this wonderful song. Building a song like a circuit board doesn’t always yield the best of results, but this time I could not raise any complaint. It was cheeky of McCluskey to drop the Joan Of Arc reference, but the lyric here was far more intriguing and nuanced than the trite material that opened the album. It was an inspired choice for a single, and was certainly unique enough to make an impression but it didn’t even make the UK top 50.

Since “side two” had been thoroughly more interesting than the first half of the album, I suppose that predicated the jamming on another mind-number. They don’t come much worse than “Hold Me.” To call it ‘MOR slush’ is facile, yet appropriate. It makes Chris DeBurgh look pretty daring in comparison. The soporific sax solo here would be a dark mark on Martin Cooper’s record. The Fender Rhodes electric piano patch used in the wrist-slitting middle eight is the worst sound design in all of OMD’s career. It takes a sappy, undignified piece of pap and renders it almost lethal in its insipidity. It was also OMDs clear nadir at that point in time.

Surprisingly, the album ended on much the same note as “side one.” “The Lights Are Going Out” was another dirgelike number on this album given a touch of Augustus Pablo with its sampled melodica hook. McCluskey at least sounded awake on this one, though still obviously in the throes of depression. The sampled vocal rhythm was said to have been inspired by Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” and I really like the subtle buildup of the sustained violin chord that occur twice in the song.

Next: …Breaking [In] America

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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2 Responses to Rock GPA: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [part 23]

  1. Echorich says:

    There really are no words I can come up with for Native Daughters Of The Golden West. It’s as if Genesis, Yes and Led Zeppelin had invaded the studio, THIS is all down to “the Hague!” I decided to listen to the album again before commenting and it’s really much worse for me than it was 32 years ago. Junk Culture may have been disappointing, but Crush is devastating to this fan. Hold You is searching for fans among the Spandau Ballet fan base. The “lazy” sax is VERY Steve Norman.
    Ready to move on for more embarrassment…


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Though OMD certainly had Prog Roots, Naaaah. I beg to differ. There’s no Genesis or Yes in “Native Daughters Of The Golden West.” Just pure Zep!! And unlike you, I find it one of the best tracks on a very spotty album. Where we differ is in I find “Kashmir” to be a superb, cinematic effort from a band that was, back in the day, The Enemy. I’ll take what I can get from OMD by this point.


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