27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzle Ships Revisited
Once these Dazzle Ships were shiny and new, raising their proud pćans against the world and his or her dog, and boldly going where no sampler had gone before. Now do these vessels lie rusting on the scrap heap of musical history? Were they mere folly all along? A silly diversion best turned to plantpots like Grandad's 78s?
Listen to this:
"It was a...
Published on 14 Nov 2010 by yangtze
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great album but compression makes this unbearable to listen to on a proper hi-fi
I've always liked the album and think it's great to see the extended version of telegraph on here. But sonically, this remaster is a tragedy. With the compression wars in full force, remaster engineers must now be preparing these latest re-releases with headphones and computer speakers in mind. Sadly, I can only listen to this CD on my stereo with the volume about...
Published on 9 April 2008 by D.H.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzle Ships Revisited,
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Listen to this:
"It was a crashing disaster." Andy McCluskey, Vox, July '93
"...the whole concept of the album lacked vision and cohesion." J. Waller / M. Humphreys, Messages (the official biography), 1987
"...shorter tracks... frustrating irritations..." Messages again.
Even it's creators, perhaps in a conscious or unconscious effort to retain credibility with an apparently hostile public, denied it thrice.
Messages suggests the `failure' of the album was due to a confused record buying public. Was the album synth-pop or was it avant-garde? This of course is twaddle. People don't buy albums because they are a `cohesive end product'. Some buy albums because they saw and liked the band live, but that's a relatively small number of people most of whom are already converts. Some buy because the songs have had lots of exposure on the radio, thanks to a very small but powerful group of DJs. Others buy because a very small but powerful group of reviewers have said nice things about the album. Neither of the latter things happened in the case of Dazzle Ships, hence low sales.
O.K., so low sales don't prove an album is bilge-water, but can we ever prove that Dazzle Ships isn't bilge-water? Aha, here we've hit the conundrum, since the whole thing about art of any kind is that, of course, there is no good or bad. Art is purely subjective. You either like a song or you don't, and the logic of getting someone who's never liked a particular band to `review' (i.e. `slate mercilessly') one of the band's albums is incomprehensible. This is neither a service to fans, nor to people who would be fans given the opportunity of hearing the music. Further, it will surely alienate readers who have bought the album and liked it.
A review should be descriptive of the music, comparative with bands of a similar ilk perhaps, and analytical with reference to past work if any, but any judgemental stuff should be clearly stated as personal opinion, and the reviewer must have some modicum of respect for and relate in some way to the artist or the whole thing's a waste of time. There is, after saying all that, one circumstance in which we should be prepared to condone the slagging off of an artist's work, and that is when the motivation behind his/her work is not the desire to create something of lasting interest, but merely the desire to create the perfect commercial product of the moment. But this was never the case with OMD. What I'm really trying to say here, in a very roundabout way, is that inappropriate reviewers and their inappropriate words have infected our attitude, and maybe even the attitude of the band, towards the monumentally unfortunate Dazzle Ships album.
The album was put together at a difficult time for the band, but it's amazing to this day that they could ever have disowned it to such an extent. The bulk of this article and review was written in 1993 and was never published, the result of an idealistic compulsion to redress the balance, but today I'm so pleased to see the beginnings of a movement to rehabilitate this fine album as a lost masterpiece.
So dust off your semaphore flags, fondle that fine cover with its playful cut-outs and interesting folds, place the vinyl lovingly on the turntable (or slide that thrilling, re-mastered, extra-tracked CD reverently into your Bang and Olufsen), think positive thoughts ("I DO like my Dazzle Ships album!!"), and embark on a voyage of rediscovery!
* RADIO PRAGUE: Sets the scene nicely, letting you know you're in for something different. Throughout most of the 80s Radio Prague was an instrument of Communist repression, but finally in 1988 Czechoslovakia switched off the jammers which were used to block western radio stations. This track is a sample of Radio Prague's foreign service call sign.
* GENETIC ENGINEERING: Rhythmic invention, spiralling, bell-like sequences, compelling dynamics, and, my goodness, is that a guitar!? An OMD classic without a doubt, and as fine a slice of synthpop perfection as you're likely to find.
* ABC AUTO-INDUSTRY: One of the supposedly `irritating' bits, but you need to work with it. Beautiful tuned percussion, the Emulator again perhaps, and unsettling samples. Samplers can do much more these days, but the sheer audacious poignancy of this piece proves that less can be more.
* TELEGRAPH: More timeless pop with some deceptively simple campanological sequences - bells to you. The primal bassline drives the thing. The live rendition on the Tesla Girls B side is THE version to have imho, and I'm willing to bet it's a long time since Andy's attempted the larynx-destroying high notes live.
* THIS IS HELENA: It's like the Emulator exploded and all the little short-wave samples came tumbling out, soundtracked by Mal's dynamic, rifle-shot drumming. Infectious and spacious, this piece has so much going on you forget there's no vocal!
* INTERNATIONAL: When journalists ask what the hell a song's supposed to be about (and I think it would be the same for a statue or painting) there's no need to defend the way it hangs. It's their problem if they haven't the imagination to interpret. What a song means to the audience is their own private affair, their interpretation becomes their property, and the writer has no business in that. What a piece means to the writer is a nice-to-know for the audience, not a need-to-know. This song is very special to me, and to many people no doubt, in its frozen, crystalline wonderfulness, and there's really no need to say any more than that. Other than you have to love OMD's waltzes! More please...
* DAZZLE SHIPS: People have been seen pogoing around the place screaming "Dive! Dive! Dive!" to this. However, as with all concrete music, this track is best enjoyed at three in the morning, after one too many snakebites, lying on your back under a starlit sky.
* THE ROMANCE OF THE TELESCOPE: Stunningly handsome detuned synthbrass and synthchoir highlights a lush, reverb-drenched mix. This is utterly original, and still largely uncharted, territory. One of the band's own favourites, and vying with anything as the Greatest Song Ever Written. You will never hear this on Radio One of course.
* SILENT RUNNING: Simplicity is the key here. Another timeless, mesmerising masterpiece with the wistful, dewy-eyed quality that seems to pervade this album. It has to be said that an irresistible feature of OMD's ouvre is the headstrong monosynth contrapuntal sub-melody that never seems to clutter a piece or collide with the vocal. But what is this song about? Could it be the band's insecurity at the time manifesting itself in something very precious that, with hindsight, could never have been consciously engineered in the vast uncharted sea that these Dazzle Ships found themselves adrift in? Probably not, but it's a nice thought.
* RADIO WAVES: More acerbic pop. Play LOUD! More driving, Kraftwerkian bass, a remarkable intro, and the kind of organ you won't ever hear played in church. Who cares if it was an old Id number as long as it sounds this good?
* TIME ZONES: A throwaway folly, or a morphing, fluid, revolving sculpture in sound? This, and the whole album, is a well-deserved nod to sound pioneer Pierre Schaeffer. The abrupt shift into the next piece is effective every time...
* OF ALL THE THINGS WE'VE MADE: This was nearly OMD's last song, and what a way to go it would have been. The drone, a technique often put to good use by OMD, is this time a jangly, shiny guitar chord, constantly insisting beneath a simple, two-fingered piano theme. The drum sounds are unusual and doleful and create an atmosphere of finality.
Dazzle Ships is an album set within a context. That context is 1983, the tail end of New Wave, and the Brave New World of mass high-technology, with a band unsure of its direction and motivation, and all of us many years younger. The music itself cannot be criticised for being disjointed or lacking direction. It is what it is - criticism is inappropriate. Dazzle Ships is something beautiful that a talented group of young artists constructed whilst influenced by their circumstances. And isn't that what all art is? Where is the crime? The album, any album, is a living testament and monument to the context from which it grew, and there's deep interest and value in that alone.
If you're still not convinced, think of the pile of bricks that once graced the Tate. The pile in itself, taken out of context, is possibly uninteresting. However, when you consider that the artist had previously shown himself to be capable of conventional art of the highest order the bricks take on a whole new value and meaning. Think about that. And while you're at it, let's listen to Dazzle Ships just one more time...
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Underrated genius,
Poppier than Sugababes, more avant garde than "Kid A", it bombed and almost destroyed their career. They got timid after this and never produced anything else in the same league.
The digital remaster is certainly worth having - the older version of the CD sounds a bit tinny next to the vinyl (this happened with a lot of CDs before mastering engineers got used to the medium) whereas this sounds warm and clear.
The extra tracks are a mixed bag - the early version of "Telegraph" is very much for completists only and the 12" version of "Genetic Engineering" doesn't really add anything to the original, but "4 Neu" and the extended version of "Telegraph" are excellent.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bedazzled,
But what an album. Misunderstood by many, worshipped by few, Dazzle Ships not only broke the rules, but doused them in petrol and set them ablaze. With no hits or radio friendly pop tunes, the album was destined to commercially sink like the Titanic. But to those that could (and still can) appreciate what McCluskey and Co. crafted into each of the 12 masterpieces, we have been blessed and privileged to bask in its splendor. Whilst others just scratch their heads and wonder what on earth was going on.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prepare to be dazzled!,
But OMD strived to be different and Genetic Engineering sought to promote the idea that GMO could be useful after all, a debate which was ahead of its time. It's also a damned good tune! There are some thought provoking moments on the album too: the recorded news piece on the intro of International detailing the misery and intolerance of war and hate.
The atmospherics are evident on the title track with its klaxons and hooters which scared the life out of me live! You could see people jump! Highlights for me include the euphoric Telegraph, Radio Waves (a song from their earlier days in The Id) and the haunting Romance of the Telescope, a track I enjoy playing now with my band, Souvenir.
It was OMD's first album to feature samplers, the old Emulator 1 doing its stuff. It's a great album and shows OMD possessed a fine grasp of the light and shade of sound as well as a well-developed knack of writing great pop songs. Respect is due.
Al Ferrier 20.3.01
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OMD at their most diverse (and best),
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Music for your tape recorder!,
Like Simple Minds, if you focus on the early years of this band, you'll find something quite different. OMD had their roots in an earlier line up of the band known as The Id ('Radio Waves' apparently stems from that) and the Humphreys/McCluskey outfits VCL XI, whose name stemmed from the cover of Radioactivity by Kraftwerk (the track VCL XI featured on second LP 'Organisation'); as well as an association with Dalek I Love You. From the 'Electricity' single released on Factory, to their first three albums on DinDisc and this LP on Telegraph, the band known as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark were pop, pioneering, cool, and all the other things you probably don't hear about them now (Sadly I've missed their latest tour thus far and will have to go to either Oxford or Cardiff to catch the Greatest Hits/A&M tour!).
I'm not sure 'Kid A' is really that good a comparison, I'm sure I made a similar analogy to Radiohead's 2000 LP in relation to Real to Real Cacophony by Simple Minds. Kid A had a kind of Dark Side of the Moon-style marketing and topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, shifting more units in the US than Radiohead had previously. Clearly it wasn't a Music for a New Society, Laughing Stock, Stag, or New Picnic Time. It was probably just a pretentious version of pop as practiced by Timbaland, Destiny's Child, or Xenomania. The old "diluted avant" thing. 'Dazzle Ships' reached the top#5 in the UK, but actually harmed their commercial prospects. A&M would remain their best selling LP, despite the adoption of pop aspects for the OMD albums that would follow...
Of the 12 tracks here, two might be familiar as b-sides/bonus tracks from the A&M-era (see the last two reissues of that LP that include 'The Romance of the Telescope' and 'Of All the Things We Made') and only seven songs have vocals. McCluskey, Humphreys, Cooper & Holmes with producer Rhett Davies appeared to have hit on the idea of making a record that concluded their sound was both influenced by and beyond that of Kraftwerk. The album contains samples, allusions to the Cold War, short wave radio signals, a speak and spell machine, and allusions to things like Muzique Concrete, 'Time Beat'(one of the first records to feature George Martin), Krautrock (notably on b-side '4 Neu', sadly not included in this version), and Vorticism. The latter is evident in the cover, of which there were three different versions for each format - the design was suggested by Peter Saville, who had designed every OMD sleeve thus far, so the record stems from the influence of Edward Wadsworth and his notion of "Dazzle camouflage." Not your standard pop record then?
The opening 'Radio Prague' does what it says on the tin - samples of Eastern Bloc theme tunes, radio bleeps, and Czech announcers. Like spinning the dial on a radio during the Cold War era, and as important as similar samples by Cabaret Voltaire on 'The Voice of America', Holger Czukay on 'Movies', 'Program' by Silver Apples, or the radio work of John Cage. The first song is 'Genetic Engineering', the least succesful of the two singles released (the other was 'Telegraph') - it has a similar mimimal 'banjo'-style guitar to that of 'The New Stone Age', alongside Speak and Spell-samples, sci-fi lyrics, metronomic chords, voices and tick-tick-ticking. Fantastic, but one that isn't on an OMD best of album (...unless in relegated bonus track form!). 'ABC Auto-Industry' is more oddness, around this time the band went on a music TV show and confused the audience and viewers by performing this track with a dash of semaphore. It has a sense of humour, using the minimalism, manipulated samples and the "Frankenstein's monster!" sample, which must have come from the James Whale film?
'Telegraph' is the most conventional song here and the closest thing to the OMD people know, like 'Enola Gay' and 'Joan of Arc', it takes a perverse subject for a lyric. OMD were celebrating the joys of modernism, as a pop song, it's an advance on the earlier 'Georgia' from A&M. A good song, but less interesting as it is the most approachable song here! The first side/half concludes with a double whammy, the sampledelic 'This is Helena', which is effective electronica (& "music for your tape recorder!") and kind of a theme tune to the record as a whole, and the downbeat ballad 'International.' The latter opens with a creepy sample, worth of Lydia Lunch or Throbbing Gristle, concering a girl whose hands had been chopped off during a civil war.
The cue for songs like 'International' and its relatives on the second side/half '...Romance...' and 'Of All the Things...' are found in earlier songs like 'Stanlow', 'Sealand', 'Navigation', and 'The Beginning and the End.' 'International' sounds like Suicide-imitating Kraftwerk, though is given an odd feeling with McCluskey's soulful lead vocal. '...Romance...' sounds like Joy Division would have if they'd really embraced electronics, having a similar feel to XTC b-side 'The Somnambulist' and prediciting ambient and digital climes that would follow. The three-part title track that precedes it will flumox anyone who is expecting a song like 'So In Love' or 'Secret': bizarre jazz, submarine sounds, electronic oddness...wonderful!
'Silent Running' is the track that owes the most to Kraftwerk here, having a feel that is very Trans Europe Express and one of electronic bliss that reminds me of 'Neon Lights' (which the McCluskey version of the band would cover at a later date). The Id-track 'Radio Waves' is more out there, probably having more in common with material on 'Organisation' - it opens with some sinister bass-synth drones, electronic flotsam, and high-pitched vocals before the song bursts into life. Like debut single 'Electricity' it makes great use of bass, which feels kind of metronomic and machine, like electricity down the wires...'Dazzle Ships' concludes with the brief collage of radio samples 'Time Zones', which is addictive stuff and in the same territory as Cage's 'Radio Music.' Hearing these sounds now, I kind of pine for the Cold War - which is no doubt due to the current climate...& the fact that the Eastern Bloc had a style! Finally there is 'Of All The Things We Made', which is another downbeat ballad with some guitar that reminds me of 'I Fell in Love with a German Film Star' by The Passions. The overall feeling is one that is more optimistic, with McCluskey's vocal and the nursery rhyme keyboard refrain, there is no fear to the modern world!
'A&M' is probably their best album, but I think that 'Dazzle Ships' is my favourite OMD LP. It put a full-stop on their Kraftwerk-influenced era and has always been a record that friends and I have weirdly concurred on. A classic, and as 'This is Helena' says, "MUSIC FOR YOUR TAPE RECORDER!"
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wierd and totally wonderful,
Go on give it a try, you might just love it!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unbeleivable.,
This surprises me as at the time, I was utterly entranced by it. I'd been following OMD since their days as The Id and was always quietly impressed at their invention (more so once they changed into OMD). I'll admit I was becoming a bit concerned at the 'tasteful dinner party' music that seemed to be edging it's way into being, 2 Joan of Arcs was an indulgence too far!
Then, along comes Dazzle Ships and I am completely blown away.
For sheer verve, experimentation, subversion and invention, you simply can't better what OMD did to Pop music, here. Genius.
For every perfect pop moment, there's a corresponding sound collage. For every emotional, heartbreaking moment (and there are plenty), there's an icy, rational moment to balance. For every seemingly barking collage, there is an underlying meaning both cogent and life affirming. For example, 'Time Zones', a collage of speaking clocks from around the world, seems mundane and faintly dull, but from it, there's a wonderful feeling of comfort and world wide unity. It's quite astonishing!
I don't think there's a duff track on the album, proper with Of All the Things We've Made and The Romance of the Telescope being favourites...and ABC Auto-Industry, but some of the extras are a little....iffy. The early version of Telegraph is an embarrassment and I thank god and science that they saw sense and re-tooled it.
But...a fascinating album from a band at their inventive peak. This is more than music. At the risk of sounding hopelessly pretentious, this borders on Art!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prepare to be dazzled (or maybe totally confused!),
So what have we got here? The title tracks are layers of sampled ships' klaxons etc whilst the actual conventional songs are as strong as anything OMD had released before. Genetic Engineering, Telegraph, This Is Helena, Radio Waves (a track they wrote whilst in The Id years before) are every bit as strong as She's Leaving, Enola Gay, Messages etc. Check out Andy McCluskey's empassioned, incredible vocal on International for sheer emotional power.
It's often been said that Dazzle Ship is a shallow remake of Kraftwerk's Radio-Activity (1975), the album which highly influenced McCluskey and Humphreys and whilst tracks like Time Zones do bear resemblance to what the Dusseldorf meisters did eight years previously, there are some pure OMD moments too to show that OMD developed Kraftwerk's blueprint somewhat. That OMD themselves took an enourmous risk recording and releasing Dazzle Ships is a credit to them but it did almost sink them commercially (no pun intended!).
It's great to hear the previously 'lost' tracks like Swiss Radio International and the early version of Telegraph at long last too. With the re-issue last year of their masterpiece Architecture & Morality, are we to believe that the first two albums - or any of the subsequent ones - are also to get the remastered/augmented treatment too?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Fascinates After All These Years,
Remastered here and in the cold light of in excess of two decades, this album still sounds somewhat strange. Yet OMD always owed more to the likes of Sheffield experimentalists Cabaret Voltaire than the pop likes of Depeche Mode and Blancmange. "Dazzle Ships" utilises all kinds of found sounds from radios, toys, typewriters, and whatever else they could squeeze into their new toy - the emulator. It sounds now like some kind of homage to the experimental spirit of some of the electronic pioneers - the likes of Brian Eno and the early Kraftwerk recordings - and not quite the pop music one would usually associate with the band.
Its closest relative is their first album and, much like that, the music splits between some melodic songs and the experimental interludes which require a little more work for the casual listener. There are some delightfully memorable moments in the shape of "Genetic Engineering" (although the version available on the CD of their Peel Sessions 1979-1983 is also recommended for its raw power) as well as "Telegraph" and "International" which also contains an extraordinary vocal performance from Andy McCluskey which is worth investigating. There is also room for the beautfully melancolic "Of All The Things She Made" (originally a b-side) which echoes the spirit of the previous album
The new edition beefs up the sound, giving this rather fragile music a chance to be heard clearly. Including the other mixes and B-sides gives the opportuntity to hear two other beautiful tracks in the shape of "06 And Fading" which is hauntingly remeniscent of the second half of "Organisation" and "4-Neu" which wears its Krautrock colours firmly on its sleeve and is a beautiful piece of music to the bargain.
This isn't the easiest album to listen to and will try the patience of those who think of OMD as the chart regulars of the albums that preceed this. They never took risks like this again (except occasionally on the privacy of a b-side) which is a pity. This may be a little uneasy listening at times, but it is never anything less than interesting.
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