Tag Archives: History of Modern

OMD and the meaning of music; part 2

Tiffany,

When we last left our hero, (me) I was just getting ready to listen to ‘History of Modern’, the new OMD album, for the very first time. I had my headphones on and a fresh cup of coffee in hand. For this blog entry, I had planned on writing a track by track review of the album, but I have found the process incredibly difficult to do. Instead, I’ve decided to share some general thoughts and impressions.

Of course, it goes without saying that my biggest fear in buying this album is that it would suck. Let’s be honest, how often do our favorite bands from our youth tend to get worse with age? Even worse, how many of them don’t seem to recognize that fact? I am still recovering from the atrocity that is Duran Duran’s worst selling record of all time, Red Carpet Massacre. Duran Duran goes ‘urban’? I think not. Anyway, I wondered if after 14 years, would OMD still be able to make good music?

The first day I listened to ‘History of Modern’ I listened to it over and over again – each time listening more and more closely to each track, each arrangement and every note. The more I listened, the happier I became that my old friend had not only returned, but had returned in top form. Truth be told, ‘History of Modern’ ranks highly among the other albums in OMD’s glorious discography. In fact, it’s arguably their best album since ‘Architecture and Morality’ was released in the early ’80s. That’s saying a lot.

History of Modern promo shot of OMD's Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey

‘History of Modern’ opens with a raw, energetic number called ‘New Babies: New Toys‘. After I listened to this song, any doubts I had about OMD still being able to write and record quality music quickly disappeared. It blends edgy guitars and buzzing synth melody that knocks your socks off. It’s a side of OMD that is rarely seen, but it’s a fucking fantastic side! In my opinion, it should be a single – it’s simply that good.

Paul Humphreys

What I like most about this album is that OMD are true to their roots, but the album is very modern – this is not completely about nostalgia. This is not 1982 take two. At times, the album is experimental with songs like ‘New Holy Ground‘ that use the sound of a woman walking in heels as the beat, and the gorgeous, eight-minute long ‘The Right Side?‘. At other times with songs like ‘The Future, the Past and Forever After‘ and ‘Sister Marie Says‘ the album is just the damn good, unapologetic pop music that OMD is known for.

Andy McCluskey

Andy McCluskey

For me, one of the things I love most about OMD is their use of choir oohs and aahs. I simply melt at what these men can do with a choir sample. And, in that respect, ‘History of Modern’ doesn’t disappoint, either. OMD’s use of choirs on this album is in many ways more inventive and beautiful than on any of their previous releases. For proof of this, one need look no further than ‘History of Modern (part 2)‘ and ‘The Right Side?’; both are simply stunning pieces of art.

OMD

All told, the new OMD album is a triumphant return for one of the most innovative bands in the electronic music movement. They are a band that has played an enormously important role in my life. They inspire, they rekindle fond memories of friends and my grandfather, and I will always be indebted to them. Welcome back, friends!

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OMD and the meaning of music; part 1

Tiffany,

I talked a little bit last week about the release of the new OMD album, ‘History of Modern’, but would like to spend a bit more time talking about OMD today.

The music of OMD has played a number of important roles in my life over the years. For me, OMD is not so much about music as it is about an entire experience. I will do my best to explain what I mean by that in this post. I mentioned before that I first fell in love with OMD when the movie ‘Pretty in Pink‘ came out. Their song ‘If you leave’ was one of the standout tracks on the movie’s soundtrack, and was a huge radio hit here in America. For some reason, I remember riding the bus home from school with that song playing on the radio. I thought to myself that ‘If you leave’ was one of the coolest songs I had ever heard. To this day, I still think that is true – it’s a prefect pop song.

OMD's 'If you leave'

I later reconnected with the band around 1993 when they released their ‘Liberator‘ album. That particular record is not one of my OMD favorites, but it was good enough to rekindle my romance with the band. At that point, I began to purchase any and all OMD records I didn’t already have. Finding the album ‘Pacific Age’ turned out to be a particular challenge given that the album had been deleted by the record company. But, on a weekend home from college I was dumbfounded when I found it searching in a discount bin at a K-Mart of all places. Probably the only think K-Mart has been good for…well, that and Martha Stewart!

When I was on campus at the University of Portland, I spent many Saturday afternoons at my favorite record store in Portland (2nd Ave Records) searching through boxes and boxes of LPs and CDs trying to find rare or imported OMD albums. My heart would leap with joy when I would find something new. I must admit that there was an element of rivalry in this, too. My friend Joel and I both loved the same bands and we would often try to ‘one up’ each other with our latest finds. In fact, the rivalry was such that the staff at 2nd Ave Records began to recognize me as ‘that OMD guy’. I would like to think my enthusiasm for the band was charming to them.

OMD's 'Everyday' - One of many 2nd Ave finds!

It was also during this time that I remember hanging out one day in Portland with two of my old best friends from High School; Jacob and Josh. We were blasting OMD’s ‘Dollar Girl’ in Jacob’s car as we cruised down the avenue. Jacob and Josh didn’t really like the same kind of music as me, but they let me have my moment and I loved it: the bass was pumping and we didn’t have a care in the world. Sadly, a few short months later, Jacob unexpectedly passed away. I will always remember that time in his car together as one of my fondest memories. To this day, I often think of him and Josh when I listen to that song.

In 1996 I took a vacation to visit my grandparents in Long Beach California (my birthplace, by the way). This was shortly after my father had passed away. One day, my grandfather and I spent our time record shopping together. He was big fan of classical music, movie soundtracks and being a Scot, traditional Scottish music. We went to many music stores on our journey, having long conversations about music as we went from shop to shop. He took my interest in music more seriously than anyone else. And, as luck would have it, that day in the Virgin Megastore in Newport turned out to be a goldmine of finds for me. There, sitting in the import bin was a copy of OMD’s latest album ‘Universal‘. I eagerly snatched it up along with copies of the album’s debut single ‘Walking on the Milky Way’ and couldn’t wait to get back to my grandparents house to hear the new album. Little did I know at the time that ‘Universal’ would be OMD’s last album until this year’s ‘History of Modern’.

OMD's 'Universal'

I was devastated when OMD retired after Universal failed to generate the commercial buzz the band had hoped for. I had not realized just how important they had become to me. I was a young guy trying to figure himself out: who was I? Was I gay? What did I believe in? Was it ok to be me? Why did my father have to die? I didn’t know the answers to any of those questions. But, I all knew was that when I put on an OMD record all my problems melted away. All I felt was music – glorious music!

Even though OMD had retired, I continued my hunt for rare OMD material and continued to play their records with just as much passion. I felt like I had won the lottery when I purchased a deleted copy of OMD’s single ‘Sailing on the Seven Seas’ because the word ‘Orchestral’ had been misspelled as ‘Orchstral’ on the spine of the CD. I treated each new purchase as prized possession and I cherished every new b-side track I found as if it were a rare gemstone.

Front Cover of OMD's Ltd. Edition CD single 'Sailing on the Seven Seas'

In the meantime, I began writing my own electronic music on my computer. I would sit in the dark and listen to OMD songs over and over again and ask myself ‘how the hell did they do THAT?’ and then do my best to figure it out on my computer. For years I have been tinkering away at my computer trying to write an OMD song but always failing. Whenever I sit down to write, OMD is always in the back of my head and I am always trying to emulate them. I will never write anything as good as OMD, I am simply not that talented; but, I sure do enjoy trying.

During 2005 when it was announced that OMD would be reuniting, I was a like a compass near north. At that time, the band expected only to tour together, not write. But, words can not describe the emotion I felt when I heard the band had decided to return to the studio and write a new record. It was as if a long lost friend who had helped me through some really tough times was returning.

The day the album finally arrived, I told my partner that I would be spending the majority of the day listening to the album. There would be no talking, there would be no phone calls, there would be no interruptions whatsoever. And, I was damn serious! My day was for OMD, and nobody else but OMD. First, I unwrapped the box, and took pictures during the process. I carefully removed the LPs, examined the gate-fold artwork, and then made my way to the CD, carefully unwrapping the shrink wrap. I practically sprinted to my computer to download the tracks to my i-Tunes library so I could begin listening. To prepare, I grabbed a fresh cup of coffee, put my headphones on and eagerly awaited to push the play button…

OMD's History of Modern box set

The end, Part 1

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OMG, OMD is back with ‘If you want it’ FTW!

Tiffany,

It was great meeting your sister yesterday. And, what a fabulous lunch we had at The Swiss in Tacoma. I hope the two of you didn’t mind my hacking – don’t worry, I am pretty sure I am no longer contagious. I guess we’ll know if you get sick in a couple of days, won’t we?

In the meantime, I’ve decided to write a short post today about music. Tiffany, one of my favorite bands of all-time is the British band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, or OMD for short. I was drawn to OMD back in the ’80s because when other bands were singing about love, sex and girls (eeww!), OMD were writing songs about Nikola Tesla, Genetic Engineering, Louise Brooks, battleships, and Apollo space missions. What’s a sexually confused kid not to love about that?

I fell out of touch with OMD in the early 90s, as most people had. But, things changed in ’93 when I was in Chico, California visiting family. I remember insisting that we visit the local Tower Records store. While flipping through the CD singles, I came across what I thought was one of the most stunning CD single covers. The single was for a song by OMD called ‘Stand Above Me‘.

I eagerly purchased it and couldn’t wait to hear the song. Sadly, I wasn’t that impressed with it, but the b-side track called ‘Can I believe you‘ was fabulous. Ever since that day, my love-affair with OMD was re-born and I’ve never looked back.

OMD are one of a number of bands that inspired me to teach myself how to write my own electronic music. It is always my goal to write songs that sound like OMD. Of course, I fail, but I never stop trying. OMD inspire me so much because out of almost all of the music I listen to, I find OMD’s style the most unique, literate, and refined – especially their early material from the ’80s. OMD elevate pop music to a level of sophistication that would even make Beethoven take notice.  Besides, what did Beethoven ever do that was so great? Did Beethoven ever get his picture on a bubble-gum card? How can you say someone is great who hasn’t gotten their picture on a bubble-gum card?

Today, OMD are poised to release their first new album in 14 years. Their first single from the album, ‘If you want it’,  is out now. The record will be called ‘History of Modern’ and is slated for release here in America on 28 September. The material from the record I have heard so far doesn’t disappoint, either. ‘If you want it’ is classic OMD with a modern twist and super hot video. In fact, in the interest of…uuuhhh…’choreographical research’, I spent a few hours dissecting the video. Here are a couple video stills for your viewing pleasure that I captured during my research.



Also for your viewing pleasure, here is the video for ‘If you want it’; I’ve also linked another new track called ‘History of Modern Part 1’. Welcome back OMD, I have missed you!

Let us know what you think of the new OMD material.

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