on 11 November 2008
Calling OMITD's music "synth pop" doesn't do their music and this album justice; A&M is not Depeche Mode or the Human League! Okay, so the band used synthesisers but these were not the only instruments of their trade; as far as I'm concerned, it wasn't about what instruments they used but how they used them that gave their music that unique appeal.
A&M is a beautiful combination of synths, guitars, drums, sampled sounds and effects, bringing together OMITD's experimental and commercial sides. The album is an event, brimming with ideas. There's the frantic guitar on the opening track 'New Stone Age'. There's the gorgeous melody of 'Souvenir', and it's choral tapes. There's Andy McCluskey singing falsetto on 'Joan of Arc', providing that memorable haunting feeling. There's Malcolm Holme's distinctive drumming - one minute very minimal and dramatic as in 'Sealand', the next very rythmic as in 'Maid of Orleans'. There's the radio samples used brilliantly in 'Georgia'. There's the musical collage of the title track, consisting of the beautiful Mellotron Choir sound that builds to a dramatic climax. And what about the final song 'The Beginning and the End' that makes me want to start the album all over again.
The extended version contains additional tracks, mainly from their B-Sides. Sadly, and I don't know why, but the fantastic track 'Navigation' has been chopped at the end - which idiot made that decision? You'll have to buy Navigation (the B-Sides album) for the full version of this track. The DVD from the 1981 A&M tour is also a must. The production values are far better than the awful DVD from the A&M tour 2007.
A&M was release at a time when British music was thriving, which is sadly why Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and this album tend to get overlooked in favour of bands like The Human League, Ultravox, Duran Duran, etc. It's a shame because as far as I'm concerned this album is far superior to the majority of material release around this time. OMITD wrote creative and inventive music that happened to be popular. They were putting their music before commercial interests, which is why I think A&M and their three other albums from this period [OMITD, Organisation and Dazzle Ship] have stood the test of time.
If you're interested in inventive, original music, then give this album a try. Don't let Andy McCluskey's developed love affair with cheap pop music put you off.
on 8 March 2005
This was the album that saw OMD break through to the wider commercial world.
The first two albums - OMD and Organisation - set up the shop for business with some superb songwriting. Songs like Messages, Electricity, Julia's Song, Enola Gay, Promise and Stanlow. Go and see for yourself! If the first two albums set the shop up, A & M well and truly opened it for business.
The musical climate of 1981 was changing. The spring had seen a crop of new British synth-based bands start to crossover to the mass appeal market. Synthdom was breaking out of the radiophonic workshop and laboratory and into the charts big-style. OMD had already started to pick up a formidable reputation, a support slot on Gary Numan's debut headlining tour in the autumn of 1979 providing the Birkenhead duo with a valuable shop window. Bassist/vocalist Andy McCluskey and synthesist/vocalist Paul Humphreys were already hitting their stride and the years 1979-85 saw them at the top of their game.
Recruiting help in the form of Martin Cooper (synths, sax, bass) and Malcolm Holmes (drums, electronic percussion), they duly took their material out live, with this line-up proving durable enough to last for several more albums.
'The New Stone Age' kicks the album off with Andy McCluskey's thrashed guitar and emotional vocal before they usher in the sublime pop of 'She's Leaving'. 'Architecture & Morality' spawned three stunning singles: the gentle but quirky 'Souvenir' (sung by Paul), the sheer craft of 'Joan of Arc' and then the almost atonal meeting between classic electronic pop and musique concrete in 'Maid Of Orleans'. As the two songs concerned Andy's obsession with the French maid who was burned at the stake, the latter was given the subtitle 'The Waltz Joan of Arc'.
Indeed, it's one of very few pop songs to be in 6/8 time!
Apart from the superb singles, other highlights include 'Georgia' with its weird cassette machine voice tape and
'The Beginning and the End' which, aptly, closes the album.
Overall, Andy's voice is the central focus: subtle, expressive, powerful and clear, he articulates his lyrics with a great degree of confidence. The songwriting is totally spot-on and the tracks worked a treat live. Pure magic so buy it!
Despite the tragic association with the second series of Alan Partridge, which has helped assist a snobbish response to O.M.D. by default, I feel the need to defend the band mostly known as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. 'A&M' took its title from a book entitled 'Morality & Architecture', the title suggested by Martha Ladly once of Martha & the Muffins and later associated with the Associates. The title fits perfectly the brilliant cover from Peter Saville Associates, who designed the majority of their sleeves (many of these are in an excellent book on Saville, well worth tracking down).
This version of 'A&M' is an extension of the extended/remaster from a few years ago, the major addition being the second disc which has DVD elements (video/live), mostly culled from a performance at Drury Lane. This is the deluxe version of the best-selling OMD album, one the fan's will have to get - if you're less certain, plump for the single disc remastered version which has all the b-sides/bonus tracks. I am one of the few who are hoping their masterpiece, 1983's 'Dazzle Ships' gets the same treatment.
The original nine-track LP is pretty perfect, advancing on the promise of the previous two albums and proving that the perfect pop of 'Enola Gay' was no one-off (which some might think when hearing the bleak electronic soundscapes of 'Organisation'). There is subversive pop, akin to 'Enola Gay', the subject this time being Joan of Arc, a figure who has been read in many ways (perhaps they had just overdosed on 'The Passion of Joan of Arc'?). 'Joan of Arc' is a gorgeous pop single, though it is the relative 'Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)' that seems more powerful, taking the ambient synths that are also found on 'Souvenir' and 'Sealand', prior to a huge classical synth motif and military drums whacked out by robots. The other single was the huge hit 'Souvenir', sung not by Andy McCluskey, but by Paul Humphreys who wrote it with Martin Cooper - more sublime pop perfection, the 'Extended Souvenir' is pretty similar, just a few extra words you might not require...
Things start more oddly with 'The New Stone Age', which has a minimal guitar sound (like Joy Division with banjos!), a metronomic drum machine and whoozy ambient drones as McCluskey sounds possessed, barking out the words: "Oh my god, what have we done this time?" The song goes into overload at the end, feeling like an advance on the Joy Division inflections of 'Organisation.' Following the dark opener, we get some more gorgeous electronic pop in the form of 'She's Leaving', which probably should have been a single - amusingly enough it would be ripped-off for 'Number One' by Goldfrapp, a band who are hip where OMD definitely aren't...
The centrepiece of the LP remains 'Sealand', which may or may not be a nod towards 'Seeland' by Neu! (OMD paid tribute to the Krautrock gods with b-side '4 Neu' a few years later), but advances on the 'Organisation'-epic 'Stanlow.' Just under eight-minutes in duration, it's a fan favourite and OMD at their most ambient, this direction would conclude with Dazzle-joys like 'International', 'The Romance of the Telescope', & 'Silent Running.' The title track predicts large aspects of the follow-up album, leading the way to the concluding tracks 'Georgia' (industrial electronic pop about a state of the Soviet Union, which like 'Enola Gay' sounds perky!) and 'The Beginning and the End' which blends Philip Glass-style minimal elements with guitar and percussion. Still great stuff, a definite perky LP and the choice OMD album (though I remain a 'Dazzle Ships' fellow myself).
The bonus tracks are another reason to buy this reissue, including a re-recorded 'Motion and Heart', tracks that would appear on 'Dazzle Ships' ('Romance of the Telescope', 'Of All the Things We Made'), and the fantastic 'Navigation', which would later give its title to a b-side collection of OMD works - one cd well worth tracking down.
Despite the later descent into stock 80s pop, session musicians and John Hughes soundtracks, OMD were once a great band, like Simple Minds, I tend to plump for the early stuff, picking only a handful of tracks after 1983. A key LP of the era, 'Architecture & Morality' feels as significant as 'Big Science', 'Dare!', 'Music for Parties', 'Non Stop Erotic Cabaret', & 'Penthouse & Pavement.' A key electronic album, even if Alan Partridge digs it!
on 17 June 2010
This album must be a contender for the ultimate 80's electronic album.. as a group omd never reached the heights of some of their contemporaries, but still managed to leave a legacy of genius. Architecture and Morality was the pinnacle of omd's early work; a combination of elements that uniquily identifies omd as the artist. Brooding and majestic, creative and beautiful. 2011 will be the albums 30th anniversary, one that still sounds as fresh and inspiring as it did back in 1981.. omd we salute you
There is that certain something here that captures the essence of the time; a reflection of a shift in culture and politics; technology and hope; this was the future. Like their hero's Kraftwerk constructed a future classic in a modern style, an astonishing feat. On this album OMD give us the pop and majesty in one, a concept album, but not quite, familiar threads that weave the listener into the texture and message of the music...
This is what 80's music was really about... not the over the top fashion and image. Some of us could have fun, and be serious at the same time ha ha...
The tour for this album was the first time I saw OMD live, and my first gig.. so a really special time.. the gig was at Sophia Gardens Pavillion in Cardiff, 29/11/1981.. I remember queuing out side as snow stared to fall, hearing the sound check of Romance of the Telescope.. pure joy...
This was the penultimate gig at this venue.. shortly after an Ozzy show the roof collapsed under the weight of snow.. no one there at the time..
Architecture and Morality.. memories are made of this
On this excellent album the melody is more important than the beat as OMD takes their synth-pop into serious territory on classics like the majestic Joan Of Arc, the wistful Maid Of Orleans, the somber Sheâ€™s Leaving and the powerful New Stone Age. Itâ€™s all held together by evocative ethereal pieces, creating a very cohesive sound sculpture. The use of a live drummer enhances the overall sound, adding a welcome human touch to the albumâ€™s sometimes bleak and desolate textures. This is definitely their best album and a masterpiece of intelligent and moving synth-pop.
on 22 February 2004
This is arguably OMDs best album in that it is listenable and easy on the ear to the pop fan but still has that quirkyness that was apparent throughout their career.
Born out of the late 70s Liverpool scene , but sounding quite different from their peers like Echo & The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes and Mighty Wah! The big hit Enola Gay (after a few minor hits including one about a telephone box in Meols on the Wirral !!! - I said they were quirky) first brought them to national attention.
This album is very much in that vain and includes the wonderfully pretty "Souvenir",and excellent hits "Joan Of Arc" And "Maid of Orleans". "She's Leaving" is an album track that probably would have been a single had it been on any other record. "The Beginning and the End" is also a good example of experimenting but not betraying pop sensibility....Sealand (possibly about an area not far from their Wirral homeland near Chester) is one of OMDs weird tracks but still listenable.
But that was always the problem with OMD. They could never decide whether they wanted to be like Abba and craft those perfect melodies or experiment with soundscapes and noise.
This is OMD at their most commercial and accessible...other than the Greatest Hits which should be your introduction to the band ,this is their Sgt Pepper. An almost perfect 'electropop' album in line with 'Dare' by the Human League and very reminiscent of the last 'Golden Age' of pop before sampling and rap left us without much originality.
I got into OMD through their 'Electricity' single, which I played for weeks before pouncing on their debut album, perforated sleeve and all. Though I didn't carry on buying their records, I was always interested in hearing their singles, as they never seemed to repeat themselves. The same is true of their album tracks, as much here as on their debut. The difference is that the debut has the lo-fi charm of a band recording on a budget, whereas, by the time of 'A. and M.', their third effort, they had more resources at their disposal. Even so, they don't play safe.
And how many artists could score three hits with such an uncommercial approach? OMD were unpredictable yet accessible. Among a welter of synth- dominated outfits, they thrived despite not wanting to be seen. There were no attention-seeking haircuts and they didn't write about themselves. No tales of teenage angst, instead an oblique, misty love song ('Souvenir') and two songs about a long dead historical heroine, all containing odd, long intros.
As for the other tracks, not for OMD the opening track with the irresistible hook, instead some intriguing percussion and guitar that sounds like a demented George Formby ('New Stone Age'). The title track, meanwhile, sounds like the ultimate in blank music, yet makes compelling listening. The bonus tracks add a great deal to this release and fit in with the overall sound. 'Motion And Heart' reveals that the band can swing a bit too. The sleevenotes confirm the band's penchant for a choral quality at the time, giving the album a more ethereal feel. 'Architecture And Morality' is one of the best albums of the 1980s.
on 16 June 2013
'Architecture & Morality' is deservedly one of the classic albums of the very early Eighties and for me it is the quintessential OMD-album and the one to get if you like electronic music and have missed out on this band.
Although OMD did not possess the amount of pop sensibility as contemporaries Depeche Mode and (latter) The Human League, 'Architecture & Morality' does have a fine selection of great, almost timeless pop songs: 'Souvenir' is as obvious a single as any and the similar-titled 'Joan of Arc' and 'Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)' are both great tunes; the latter turns up regularly on Eighties compilations. As said by another reviewer, 'She's Leaving' should indeed have been a single as it is a marvellous track.
Elsewhere the album is slightly more inaccessible and somewhat reminds me of for instance The Human League's 'Travelogue', although 'Architecture & Morality' is markedly colder sound-wise.
And speaking of sound, not all tracks have aged as well as other albums from the same period, but that can hardly be expected of an album this old.
This is one to get - a collection of electronic music would be incomplete without it.
on 23 April 2010
A good third album from this eighties experimental pop band, and probably recognised as their overall best. More polished than the first two it kicks off with the very experimental and noisey "New Stone Age" showing that they weren't just a pop band. Followed by the very poppy and melodic "She's Leaving" and then the hit "Souvenir" you soon see the band had found comfort in the range of material they were producing. Some of the tracks are long minimalist pieces, especially the title track, while others bop along happily. The bonus tracks are a good selection of b-sides and alternate versions, giving further insight into OMD's experiments, but don't gel together with the rest of the album. They do feel like bonus tracks.
If you've not got into 80s electronic music before, this is a pretty good example of the more accessible side. Team it up with Gary Numan's "Telekon", Nash The Slash "Children Of The Night", Human League's "Dare" or "Travelogue", Cabaret Voltaire "Voice of America" & "Crackdown", and Throbbing Gristle's "20 Jazz Funk Greats" and you would have yourself a good eclectic starting point.
on 10 October 2008
An excellent re-release of the classic OMD album. Not only do you get the original album remastered, you get seven bonus tracks some of which appeared as B sides on the original singles releases. What makes this package very special though is the DVD - The main feature is the live concert from the album tour back in 1981 (this was released on VHS many years ago but is no longer available). Also included are two promo videos and a Top of the Pops appearance showcasing the three singles from the album, Souvenir, Joan of Arc and Maid of Orleans. Its interesting to compare this concert with the recently released DVD 'Live Architecture & Morality & More' from the aniversery tour last year.
In Summary, an excellent must have album boosted by the rare bonus tracks and completed with a live performance. A 'must have' and excellent value for money.