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Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Entry updated 21 August 2012. Tagged: Music.

Also known as OMD. UK synth-pop band, formed in 1978 by Andy McCluskey (1959-    ) and Paul Humphreys (1960-    ). OMD rode the slipstream of Kraftwerk inflected synth-pop, much as did Gary Numan and the Human League, although the OMD sound is generally speaking brighter, poppier and more upbeat than that of their fellows. This cheerier tone expresses itself even in the seemingly unpromising subject matter of the group's first big hit, "Enola Gay" (on Organisation, 1980), a perky and memorable song, named after the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. This song styles the world's first nuclear strike in the terms of sf fable in which the explosion stops time ("it's 8:15, and that's the time that it's always been"). OMD's third album Architecture and Morality (1981) touches in some of its tracks on alternate social models ("The New Stone Age", "Sealand"), but it is their fourth, Dazzle Ships (1982), that remains perhaps their most interesting. The conceit here is that the band are tuning-into the shortwave broadcasts from an imaginary Eastern European country, and the songs ("Genetic Engineering", "The Romance of the Telescope", "Silent Running") nicely capture the flavour of an "official" or "sovietized" optimism about a technologically advanced future. An interest in this sort of retro technology carried over into the next album, Junk Culture (1984) in tracks such as "Tesla Girls" and "Locomotion". A desire to pander to chart-oriented pop tastes, and diminishing returns, blight subsequent releases; but at their height OMD were a very interesting band indeed. [AR]


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