I remember hearing somewhere along the way that Martin Cooper and Malcolm Holmes threw their lot in with Paul Humphreys to reunite as a new band once Paul left OMD and the others soon followed. So on one hand, we had Andy owning the OMD name and having released a pair of tepid releases that managed to make the last two OMD albums sound strong in comparison. With 3/4 of the classic OMD lineup in a new formation, interest was high from these quarters, to put it mildly.
The gents formed their own label, Telegraph Records since Paul had learned that he wanted to own his songs going forward. The band was eventually revealed as The Listening pool and I was having a hard time obtaining the CD. Eventually, I saw a catalog [SoundCity 2000?] where the Japanese CD was for sale, so I ordered one. At this point in time, Japanese CDs were about $33-35 each. Not inexpensive. That they usually came with bonus tracks not elsewhere was a small sop. Here, it netted me the extended version of the first single A-side, “Oil For The Lamps Of China.” Thank goodness my earning capacity was at its height during this period, so I could order with impunity.
The first track was not what I was expecting from this band. After all, Paul had walked away from OMD due to the compromised sound of trying to make it in the American market. This made me think that he was going to move in a more uncompromising, technological direction. Perhaps a return to the more electronic emphasis of OMD prior to the Stephen Hague years, which saw them behaving more like rock band. That shows how wrong I was. “Meant To Be” sounded like modern China Crisis! Real drumming as opposed to the drum machines of Andy’s OMD, of course, but nothing motorik in the slightest. A pretty wimpy tune but at least it had some hooks. Yeah, I could hear China Crisis doing something like this. One of the Eddie Lundon tracks, at least.
They obviously put a lot of effort into the pre-release single, “Oil For The Lamps Of China.” A further ten names appeared in the credits for this one! Everyone from Prince protege Jill Jones [BVs] to Tom Lord-Alge [who mixed this] threw their hats in on this one. That said, the song was not as memorable as the previous one. The extremely soulful backing vocals made this sound cliché. This was radically not what I was expecting, and quickly degenerating from the modest levels of success that at least the first track had evidenced.
Tracks like “Follow Wherever You Go” and “Breathless” were full of cloying adult contemporary synth patches and full of Kenny G sax manoœuvres. Disgraceful! “Breathless” was so MOR that at any moment I was expecting Mark Knopfler to show up as the guitar of Tony Smith kept threatening to go full pedal steel at any moment. At least OMD never threatened to make country music. As Andy had hooked up with local b-list Liverpudlian dance music producers for his opus, Paul had also picked from the local talent pool. The difference was that he was looking at the MOR spectrum and pulled Thomas Lang into backing vocal duties there.
When Hugh Cornwell had left The Stranglers a few years earlier for solo pastures, I bought the first Stranglers single without him and ended my probe then and there. Instead of letting J.J. Burnel carry the load, they opted to enlist one Paul Roberts [not the Bad Company singer] and lost me right then and there as the crooning Roberts was completely ill-suited for the truculence that The Stranglers demanded. When Roberts showed up as guest vocalist on “Somebody Somewhere,” his tepid crooning may have fit the toothless music somewhat better, but that didn’t mean that I wanted to listen to him here, either. Listening to this was like eating the whitest bread possible. Bread so lacking in fiber [and nutrients] that it could cause diarrhea.
Next: …Where Do We Go From Here?