Rock GPA: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [part 51]

Onetwo – Instead | 2007 – 3

[continued from last post]

The album opened with a Big Bang. “The Theory Of Everything Part 1” was a cinematic cauldron roiling with anxious dread and by far the most portentous track ever to grace an album with Claudia Brücken singing since the heady days of “Dr. Mabuse.” The effect here really set the listener up for the earthshaking sequel to “A Secret Wish” that we had given up all hope of hearing and the effect of it evaporating into “The Theory Of Everything Part 2” without so much as a dry cough from Ms. Brücken was disappointing. On the other hand, it did show that Paul Humphreys [along with co-writer Jon Russell] could approach that dark miasma of Propaganda quite effectively, if they put their minds to it. As it turned out, their minds were elsewhere.

“The Theory Of Everything Part 2” was a complete volte-face from the 90 second intro we had just heard. It was a delicate pop tune with the luscious Teutonic crooning of Ms. Brücken set over a clockwork modern technopop music bed. Of course, “modern” in this sense meant that Humphreys had fully transitioned to the current fashion of making electronic music; on a computer. Rhythms were loop based and while care was taken to add interest, there’s only so much that can be done to stimulate my ears when making music via software systems. The irony was that is decidedly sounded more “electronic” than the last three albums we had heard from Mr. Humphreys.

“Sequential” was more interesting. In another era, this would have been one of the singles from this album, back when the world was young. James Watson’s guitar integrated beautifully with the Eurosynth creating a hint of John Barry soundtrack vibe here. The methodical rhythm pattern came to the fore on the middle eight when all of the melody aspects dropped out. The dreamlike backing vocals were another big plus. If Billy MacKenzie were still around imagine what he could have done with a duet here!

Following this, one of the album’s big payloads was dropped with “Home [Tonight].” The heartbreaking cinematic intro sets the listener up for the chilly look at a breakup that was heavy on the heroin imagery as it honestly explored its fatalism. The accompaniment was light and minimal there so as not to overpower the emotional weight of the lyrics. Following this the mood lightened with a remix of “Signals,” a track from the “Item” EP given a new mix by future OMD mainman Chuck “Chicky” Reeves. Here, the notion of removing all of the Kraftwerk DNA from the enjoyable [albeit derivative] original mix was eschewed for a lighter technopop touch. I can’t say I enjoyed the chorus FX on Ms. Brücken’s vocals, but in all other aspects, it fit the album better in its new guise.

Then the album delivered another wallop with the first cover version included here; a stunning take of Pink Floyd’s cynical industry song “Have A Cigar.” The music bed substantially reflected co-producer Bob Kraushaar’s ZTT roots, with a song that could effortlessly be mashed up with Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Welcome To The Pleasuredome!” In fact, once the song hits the three minute mark, there was no further singing and I’m here to tell you that you can easily sing the lyrics to that FGTH single along with the music here. Sure, it’s a throwback, but the attack reeks of vitality and it almost upstages the rest of the production here, for that matter. The album could have benefited for a little more of such boldness doled out throughout it.

Next: …A Cover No One Expected

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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4 Responses to Rock GPA: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [part 51]

  1. Echorich says:

    We have had a good number of conversations on the topic of Soft Synths and Software Electronica. I am always energized by the sounds of analog synths at work on a piece of music, but I remain open to the best use of software synths. Sure sometimes they make for facile music, but they are a musical tool in the right hands. I posit that in the hands of Paul Humphrey’s they have a user/musician with the ability to have a deft touch. This is certainly on display on Instead.
    I don’t find the transition into The Theory of Everything Part 2 as jarring or unexpected. There’s a sort of panoramic feel to this gentle pop song. I wonder if the song had a dual context when it was written. It is a sad coincidence that we have reached this point at the time of Steve Hawking’s death.
    Sequential is certainly one of my favorite songs from Instead. Just the right touch of mystery and urgency interplay between the music and the glorious Claudia Brücken vocal.
    Home (Tonight) again brings back some very Propaganda impressions into the duo’s music. You can’t help but pay attention to La Brücken, her command is that strong.
    I’ve always thought that Signals, in it’s album version, reminds me of Bigger Than America era Heaven 17. As Claudia and Glenn Gregory have always had a close friendship, there could be something to that. I can certainly hear this song sung by Gregory and the sound sharpened and shaped into a fantastic H17 song.
    I’m a big fan of Have A Cigar. It’s one of the handful of Pink Floyd songs that I will admit to enjoying. That Onetwo chose to be reverential to PF’s opening, speaks to a similar deference, but as it opens up into a dancefloor crossover, they pull it off with aplomb. Your use of the word “vitality” is very apt, Monk. Where the original can become a bit noodle-y towards the end, the 4/4 beat gives those synth lines something to lay on.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Fascinating thoughts about “Signals!” You’re right about the “Bigger Than America” sound of it. Glenn and Claudia need to do a duet album. But then again, so do Glen and Midge Ure. Maybe all three of them together since Ure played guitar on “When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time” all those years ago.

      I say if you have to hear “Imperial Period” Pink Floyd, you could stop and start with “Wish You Were Here.” We’ve got two fantastic covers of this, and the original, as you point out, ain’t hay, but the gold star obviously goes to Kraushaar who replicated the full ZTT Big Beat Colossus flawlessly here.

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      • Echorich says:

        I am ok with letting Midge into the party as long as he leaves the acoustic guitar and Celtic songbook at home.
        As for Kraushaar, he has been a secret weapon for so many bands looking for a “certain” sound at a reasonable price and with a reasonable man behind the board…. The Blow Monkeys, Breathe (yes they get another mention in 2018) Marc Almond, ABC, Erasure, A Certain Ration, Intastella…He even engineered on Dalek I Love You’s eponymous album.
        One of my favorite mixes he’s done is on the album version of Sense on Terry Hall’s Home album from 1994. The sound is so big and bright and joyous. It soars.

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        • Tim says:

          Home is a really underrated album, I always gave Ian Boudrie that credit the sound on it, to my ears it sounds like a lost Lightning Seeds album. He also worked on Alison Moyet’s Essex which is my favorite effort of hers.

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