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The second LP from OMD...,
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This review is from: Organisation (Audio CD)
The cover art - from Peter Saville's iconic front cover to the monochrome shots of Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey - give away the dark tone of this LP. Organisation was the second LP released by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, a rapid follow-up to their eponymous debut also released in 1980 and it's their darkest record (with the exception of their cover of 'The More I See You', which sticks out like a sore thumb and should be viewed alongside cover versions like the rock'n'roll standards the Silicon Teens recorded for Music for Parties (also 1980), Soft Cell's 'Hendrix Medley', & Devo's 'Satisfaction').
The LP opens with the other sore thumb, the hit single 'Enola Gay', which is a breezy, melodic slice of synthpop that would later be referenced on the great 'Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits' by the Magnetic Fields. I guess the title and the lyrics are quite dark, nodding to the atom bomb and the plane that delivered Little Boy to Hiroshima? The remainder of Organisation, tracks 2 -6 & tracks 8 - 9 are much darker. There was obviously something in the air, that bleak zeitgeist (the Cold War, the after effect of Cambodia, the invasion of Afghanistan, the end of the dire Labour era/the rise of Thatcher etc), and OMD had also absorbed some influence from Joy Division (having played live with them and put out 'Electricity' as a single on Factory).
Organisation feels very much like an LP in one tone, more so with the addition of 'Enola Gay's b-side 'Annex', though the other bonus tracks feel different. These include the Dindisc 1980 re-recording of 'Electricity', which is fine, but slightly pointless in that the original remains fantastic and four tracks recorded live (tracks 11 - 14), which are more akin to the sound of the debut LP. 'Introducing Radios' nods back to John Cage's 'Radio Music' and forwards to the directions pursued on their 1983 masterpiece Dazzle Ships.
The album proper takes some time to sink in, perhaps due to the fact it's a mood shift from the opening hit single - 'VCL XI' alludes to a symbol on the cover of Radioactivity by Kraftwerk and a pre-OMD outfit that Humphreys and McCluskey had (other precursors include Pegasus, The ID, and Dalek I Love You). '2nd Thought' is like a more electronic take on 'Insight' by Joy Division, while 'Motion and Heart' is a more minimal piece, not that far from Suicide's second LP. 'Statues' is a dark, desolate ballad that sounds like power stations fading out; even darker is the climax of the LP 'Stanlow', which samples the oil refinery in Ellesmere Port and is an epic ode to Stanlow itself. It opens like Kraftwerk being directed by Brian Eno in ambient mode, while setting the tone for the epic centrepiece of their next LP Architecture & Morality, the live favourite 'Sealand.'
Organisation is an LP that you have to be in the right mood to listen to, if you want more 'Enola Gay', you should possibly go for one of the two compilations of OMD, or the best-selling A&M. This was their first classic album, though I think A&M and Dazzle Ships are even better, one of those early, dark works like Empires & Dance, Systems of Romance, and Travelogue...and an electronic joy to boot!