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’ 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.
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.
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.
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!