Rock GPA: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [part 70]

OMD – The Punishment Of Luxury | 2017 – 4

[continued from this post]

“Kiss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Bang” might have been called “Kiss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Bang Bloc Bloc Bloc” since it represented a second example of Andy McCluskey making a song with a stream-of-consciousness lyrical structure, just as he had in 1985 with “Bloc Bloc Bloc” on the “Crush” album. The music here was far more interesting, though. Instead of bland, guitar pop, this one was precious and poised crystalline synth pop with a fussy, elegant arrangement. One that ultimately contrasted against the stream of lyrics that intimated a sense of hostility by the time that McCluskey dropped the F-bomb with a deceptively ironic tone, completely bereft of aggression in his delivery. I guess the second time was the charm, since I really hated “Bloc Bloc Bloc” and don’t have many problems with “Kiss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Bang.”

The look backward with revisionism continued with the perfect pop of “One More Time” being the type of song that OMD were making [badly] on the likes of “Crush” or “The Pacific Age.” The lyric was a look back at a love affair that ended badly with a degree of wistfulness for the good times mixing with the regret. Had it been written thirty years earlier, it might have ended a failure. Instead, the wisdom that comes with lessons hard-learned, made this tune a shining example of a pitch perfect 3:00 pop song that gave an injection of light to an album with a morose undertow. The elegant melody of the music bed also gave way to a great chorused synth solo on the middle eight.

La Mitrailleuse 1915 Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson 1889-1946 Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1917

The first song teased from “The Punishment Of Luxury” was the deceptively outré track “La Mitrailleuse;” based on a viewing of British Futurist Christopher Nevison’s 1915 painting, on view at the Tate Museum in London. Although The Futurists were obsessed with the allure of the coming machine age, Nevison’s experience as an ambulance driver in World War I soured him on the the mechanization of all things, in particular, war. He expressed this through his painting; depicting four men [one dead] hunched into a deadly communion with a machine gun. McCluskey simple repeated a single phrase throughout the 2:00 song fragment. “Bend your body to the will of the machine.”

The music bed was hyper minimal here. Only spectral choral patches at near-subliminal levels of sound, with the foreground given to a smattering of artillery and gunfire samples which almost, but not quite, coalesced into something resembling music. It was a fantastic representation of musical futurism. It seemed like the ultimate representation of what Luigi Russolo had proposed in his manifesto, “The Art Of Noises.” Which in itself was the inspiration for ZTT/The Art Of Noise. But even on their purest release, the “Into battle” EP, AON had never attained the purity of form that OMD achieved here with “La Mittrailleuse.” The manipulated sound of strictly artillery here is as pure a Futurist composition has ever been achieved. Russolo had posited a time when pure noises could be manipulated instead of the regressive and Romantic traditional instruments of the orchestra, and a century later, OMD have achieved that goal, as illustrated below by the animation of Henning M. Lederer for the song.

Next: …Apotheosis of OMD

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 70]

  1. Echorich says:

    The first time I heard Kiss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Bang I immediately played it again. It starts out with a gentle, pure synth sound that is enhanced by the deceptive lyrics. That purity of sound continues on One More Time, a song that sounded fantastic on their recent tour and managed to get as much positive reaction as (Forever) Live And Die that followed it when I saw them.
    When La Mitrailleuse was released as the album teaser/single, I wondered if OMD was going to take the full plunge into a Synth-Futurist Epic with the coming album – something I would devour, if truth be told. The track takes you on a journey full of tension and imagery.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – That purity of sound is down to Humphreys. As Andy puts it “I’m the butcher – he’s the surgeon.” “One More Time” makes a great “fourth single” from the album and I was glad to hear the extended Fotonovela remix! The LP mix was just as perfect as a 3:00 pop single gets. “La Mitrailleuse” was a track to make Paul Morley intensely jealous. It is as perfect a musical expression of Futurism as can be imagined in both form and content, while fitting in with the contrarian ethos of the POL album. AON came so very close with “Into Battle,” before gradually spinning away from their core conceit without ever having nailed it as tightly as OMD did on that track. Of course, OMD had long been fascinated by the pull of both World Wars and their effect on society that still reverberates now. Sadly.


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