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56 of 86 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not their "best album since Architecture and Morality", 10 Aug. 2010
This review is from: History Of Modern (Audio CD)
And so the finest band to emerge from the Synth Britannia era return. It is the first studio album since 1986's "The Pacific Age" to feature the classic line-up of Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Martin Cooper and Malcolm Holmes. The original 4-piece split acrimoniously in 1989, following the platinum-selling retrospective, "The Best of OMD", the previous year. McCluskey resurrected the brand to varying degrees of success in the 1990s, while Humphreys, Cooper and Holmes formed the ill-fated band, The Listening Pool, after failing in a bid to use the OMD name. Krautrock aficionados McCluskey and Humphreys, the electronic pioneers of such groundbreaking albums as "Architecture and Morality" and "Dazzle Ships", announced their reunion at a fan gathering in 2005 and consolidated this with successful tours between 2007 and 2009.

Sadly, no matter how the marketing team dress this up (in an eye-catching bright orange sleeve supposedly designed by long time cohort Peter Saville) it is, basically, another McCluskey solo album with some overdubs and a few songwriting contributions from Humphreys, a busy man in his own right with OneTwo, a project he formed with Claudia Brucken of Propaganda fame. The contributions from Cooper and Holmes are difficult to fathom in anything other than names on the sleeve credits whilst, somewhat tellingly, there are no vocals from Humphreys.

Many of the tracks had been demoed by McCluskey following his foray into the world of girl group songwriting for the likes of Atomic Kitten and Genie Queen. The current single, "If You Want It", seems to be a hold-off from this particular period. It was co-written by the girls' (and McCluskey's) vocal coach Tracey Carmen who'd had a hand in the Kittens' "Be With You". It is permeated with lyrical clichés, while its musical template is unashamedly deeply rooted on the last OMD hit single, "Walking On The Milky Way", from 1996's "Universal". It is an odd choice for a comeback single, but one that seems to suggest that the band's PR are targeting other markets aside from the lucrative nostalgia circuits.

The obvious choice for a single is "Sister Marie Says", a close relative of "Enola Gay" that was part-written in 1981 and later recorded during the "Universal" sessions in the mid-90s. It was premiered at the previously mentioned fan event and dusted off by McCluskey for inclusion on the new album - it certainly improves on the original demo and brings the classic OMD sound up to date.

And so to the rest of the 13-track album: On opener "New Babies: New Toys", OMD are fast out of the traps with a New Order-esque track that mirrors the aggressive nature of earlier tracks such as "Bunker Soldiers". It also sees McCluskey strapping on his bass for the first time since 1985's "Crush". It is a fantastic opening track. Sadly the momentum is lost with the single, but quickly restored with part one of the two album title tracks, which builds upon some of the lyrical themes of the "Universal" single. Originally titled "The Big Bang Theory", it is an enjoyable track that marries the band's trademark choral effects with a memorable synth refrain (and, intentionally or not, a melody lift from James' 1992 hit "Ring The Bells"). Indeed there are other positives on this album. Two of Humphreys' co-writes, "Green" and "New Holy Ground" rank alongside some of the duo's best work. The latter was written and recorded in a few hours as a potential b-side and echoes "The Avenue" (the brilliant b-side of 1984's top 5 hit, "Locomotion"). It is a reminder of how McCluskey's melancholia used to be the perfect counterfoil to Humphreys' intricate, yet simple, melodies...before the financial allure of America caused the band to implode.

OMD purists will be confused when they hear the beautiful "New Holy Ground" alongside the likes of "Pulse", an embarrassing attempt at a dancefloor filler which contains breathy, spoken word vocals from McCluskey. And then there is "Sometimes", which sounds like a Moby tribute track, but with a piercing, wailing vocal from former Listening Pool backing vocalist, Jennifer John . Thankfully fans were spared when "Save Me", a mash up of "Messages" and Aretha Franklin's "Save Me", was dropped from the album.

The new album lacks the lyrical focus of "Universal" and both the musical ambition and creative urgency of the first four albums. McCluskey is far too reliant on samples, particularly towards the end of the album, and there are mixed results. There is a distinct lack of musical invention on the Moroder-esque "The Future, The Past and Forever After", another track retrieved from the 90s vaults (originally titled "Wheels of Steel"). The acknowledged Kraftwerk influence is prevalent on at least two songs: album closer, "The Right Side?", is a satisfying 8-minute workout that mirrors elements of Kraftwerk's "Europe Endless" (and samples fellow KlinkKlang enthusiasts Komputer), while "RFWK" (Ralf, Florian, Wolfgang, Karl) is a touching love letter to McCluskey's boyhood heroes. Elsewhere, "Bondage of Fate", another lyrical highlight of the album, subtly incorporates elements of Hannah Peel's "Organ Song."

All in all, it's a disjointed effort, one that is clearly designed to reintroduce the brand, clear the decks and pave the way for the next OMD album proper. To label it as a cohesive body of work in the ilk of "Architecture and Morality" was a foolish ploy on the part of the band's marketing strategists and will leave many fans - this one included - disappointed.
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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Aug 2010 12:18:32 BDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Aug 2010 19:24:49 BDT
Last edited by the author on 25 Aug 2010 19:26:02 BDT
Pistoleer says:
Everyone is entitled to their opinion matey and people have a right to consider his view as well as have the option to heed or ignore your advice. As an OMD fan since 1979 I can see exactly where he is coming from and I applaud the frank, and informed, points he has put across. It's difficult to judge it at this stage as most of us have yet to hear the album but from what I've heard already I think this reviewer is nearer the mark than you think. OMD ceased to exist when the original combo split in the mid 80's and merely having 3 of the 4 original members on the payroll as 'session musos' does not constitute an OMD album. I will buy the LP as a fan but I doubt I'll find it the revelation that others hope it will be. I'm sure a lot of fans will be on here giving the album a big thumbs up prior to its release but not all fans will be sharing that opinion. Let's see how it fairs after the 20th September.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Aug 2010 21:38:15 BDT
Last edited by the author on 30 Aug 2010 22:25:18 BDT
Berty Basset says:
Message to Paul M. Holdsworth :

Let me get this right.

You said "From what I have heard the new OMD album is great".

That makes me assume you haven't heard this album in full (or more likely, you haven't heard any of it ?).

Yet you have decided to attack the reviewer (a confirmed OMD fan who has written a very detailed review) because he didn't think it was "all that" ??

At least it was clear from his review that he has actually heard the album in full and is giving a well-written, personal opinion.

You just seem p*ssed off that he doesn't think it's amazing.

Personally, I'm more p*ssed off about the other 2 reviews currently on here.
Both are from people who basically admit they haven't heard the album in full (one has heard a few tracks, the other has only heard the single).

But I guess because they both gave it high marks then that's ok with you Paul ?

Don't get me wrong. I love OMD and I hope this album turns out great.
Until I've actually heard in full and had time to digest it though, my opinion is irrelevant, and I certainly wouldn't say to someone who clearly HAS heard it in full : "This so-called reviewer has no idea".

The phrase "oblivious fanboy" comes to mind. Please grow-up Paul....

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Sep 2010 17:14:38 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 17 Sep 2010 20:40:33 BDT]

Posted on 17 Sep 2010 19:41:43 BDT
Ah!! OMD are back now it's official. The diehards brook no attack on their gods, the disenchanted state their concerns. Me, I like Dreads review and now that I can preview the whole album on myspace I can see where he's coming from. The short snippets on here paint a rosier picture than is the actuality. Don't get me wrong It's OMD but like I took from Dreads review it's OMD following up Universal with a universal version of Dazzle ships.
I liked Dazzle ships so maybe this one will grow on me, but it's not got the same experimental edge that Dazzle ships had and at first listening the smoothness that Universal had so for me it falls between two stools and dangles . It won't stop me getting the album as I pre ordered straight away, but I was expecting the missing album, the follow up to Pacific age that I heard about in Record Mirror all those years ago.

Posted on 20 Nov 2010 00:00:19 GMT
Well, okay, you feel it's a bit of misfire, but I did find some of the 'Universal' songs embarrassing, the plus side was he tried to get away from the pedestrian dancefloor sounds that pop up on his first two albums of the 90s. I'm also pleased there's plenty of vocals on this album (thankfully gone are the days of the three or five minuter with one sung line and the rest just music).

I just wanted to gently correct you. Paul Humphreys sings the 8 minute epic at the end, 'The Right Side'. He also has a short passage sung in 'History Of Modern (Part 1)' but is quickly joined by Andy McC. Nonetheless they are there, happily. Apart from the debut, whereupon they sang 'Electricity' together (I guess Paul was too nervous to tackle a song on his own vocally), this completes the picture of every album they both did together of Paul always having one song-and usually a release, but I can't see that happening here.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Nov 2010 13:46:02 GMT
Just for the record, there are no Paul Humphreys vocals on this album! Paul co-wrote 3 of the songs and 'styled' some of the tracks on the album, but HOM is mostly McCluskey's work.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Nov 2010 23:47:16 GMT
Well for the 're-recorded record', that IS Paul's voice on the last song 'The Right Side'-God I know what the guy sounds like, I've bloody liked them long enough! Not only that, it was reported on their website and on a wikipedia page that he sings this song. Also has a line on the 3rd track (it's only a few words, but it's there).

OMD albums have always been largely the driving force of Andy (writes more songs himself and sings more) but apart from the debut and his solo albums, since 'Organisation', Paul has always sung one song. Listen again, that IS Paul!

I bloody bet ya!

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Nov 2010 11:03:56 GMT
I "bloody bet ya" Paul Humphreys doesn't sing the vocals on "The Right Side?" ! I'd be interested to see the link you refer to above from the website stating that he does (which presumably is an official source rather than some musings on the fan forum section). As for Wiki, whilst generally accurate, again a lot of it is fan musings rather than fact.

Please listen again - that is NOT Paul's vocal!!

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Nov 2010 23:05:57 GMT
Sorry, but were you there when he recorded it. The voice is pretty much the same as all the other 6 songs he's sung on the past OMD albums: 'Promise', 'Souveir', '4-Neu', 'Never Turn Away', 'Secret'
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