Genere: Synth Pop, New Romantics, New Wave.
Similar Artists:Softcell, China Crisis, Visage.
Recording Year: A&M. 1984.
Featuring the core members Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey, the Liverpudlian synth pop group Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark formed in the late '70s. Humphreys and McCluskey began performing together in school, playing in the bands VCL XI, Hitlerz Underpantz, and the Id. After the Id split in 1978, McCluskey was with Dalek I Love You for a brief time. Once he left Dalek, he joined with Humphreys and Paul Collister to form Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. The group released its first single, "Electricity," on Factory Records; the record led to a contract with the Virgin subsidiary DinDisc. Using their record advance, McCluskey and Humphreys built a studio, which allowed them to replace their four-track, and recorded with drummer Malcolm Holmes (formerly of the Id) and Dave Hughes (formerly of Dalek I Love You).
In 1980, the group released its self-titled debut album. Organisation appeared the same year, which featured the U.K. Top Ten single "Enola Gay"; Hughes was replaced by Martin Cooper after its release. The band's next few albums -- Architecture and Morality (1981), Dazzle Ships (1983), and Junk Culture (1984) -- found the band experimenting with its sound, resulting in several U.K. hit singles. Recorded with two new members, Graham and Neil Weir, Crush, their most pop-oriented album, found more success in America than in Britain as the single "So in Love" hit number 26 on the charts. "If You Leave," taken from the Pretty in Pink soundtrack, was their biggest American hit, climbing to number four in 1986. The Pacific Age was released the same year, yet America was the only country where it was popular. Shortly after its release, the Weir brothers left the band, followed by Holmes, Cooper, and Humphreys. McCluskey continued with the band, releasing Sugar Tax in 1991; in the meantime, Humphreys formed the Listening Pool.
After Sugar Tax failed to gain an audience, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark returned with Liberator in 1993, which also was ignored. It was followed three years later with Universal. The OMD Remixes appeared in 1998.
Junk Culture exhibits all the best qualities of OMD at their most accessible -- instantly memorable melodies and McCluskey's distinct singing voice, clever but emotional lyrics, and fine playing all around. A string of winning singles didn't hurt, to be sure; indeed, opening number "Tesla Girls" is easily the group's high point when it comes to sheer sprightly pop, as perfect a tribute to obvious OMD inspirational source Sparks as any -- witty lines about science and romance wedded to a great melody (prefaced by a brilliant, hyperactive intro). "Locomotion" takes a slightly slower but equally entertaining turn, sneaking in a bit of steel drum to the appropriately chugging rhythm and letting the guest horn section take a prominent role, its sunny blasts offsetting the deceptively downcast lines McCluskey sings. Meanwhile, "Talking Loud and Clear" ends the record on a reflective note -- Cooper's intra-verse sax lines and mock harp snaking through the quiet groove of the song. As for the remainder of the album, if there are hints here and there of the less-successful late-'80s period, at other points the more adventurous side of the band steps up. The instrumental title track smoothly blends reggae rhythms with the haunting mock choirs familiar from earlier efforts, while the elegiac, Humphreys-sung "Never No More" and McCluskey's "Hard Day" both make for lower-key highlights.
Fields Of Haze.