Monday, 1 October 2018
Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark - Organisation (1980)
Released October 1980
I remember coming back from a gig around 1980 on the tube (probably having seen The Jam or Elvis Costello) and seeing lots of fans get on having been to see Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. I had never heard of them, despite the minor hit single "Electricity" from I later found to be their excellent debut album. Within weeks, though, they had a big hit single with the now instantly recognisable "Enola Gay", which tapped in to the contemporary paranoia about nuclear war. It was, considering its sombre subject matter, a catchy, upbeat single. It was little out of kilter with the remainder of the album, however, which was powerfully reflective in places, positively gloomy in others.
"2nd Thought" is very post-punk in its introspection and dour mood, but OMD never enhanced their sound with the industrial guitars of many other post-punk groups. It was electronic keyboards/synthesisers and thumping bass guitar all the way. "VCL XI" is a classic example of this. It also has a late seventies David Bowie-ish sort of title ("TVC15", "V2 Schneider"). This was OMD's last album before they became much more well-known and commercially more-successful. They were still getting away with some sprit of the age dourness on this one.
They try to up it a bit on "Motion And Heart" but it still sounds very sonorously "Kraftwerk-influenced. Despite their up-to-date electronic innovatoriness (is that a word?) OMD's world is still one of desolate landscapes and industrial plants. "Statues" is ghostly and sombre. a lot of people were expecting more "Enola Gay"-type tracks on this album. They didn't get them. It is actually quite a dark album (it seemed that so many of them were in the early eighties, maybe that's why the finery of New Romanticism was so successful). David Bowie's instrumental material of the late seventies had pointed the way towards tracks like "The Misunderstanding" with its dark, sombre intro. Like much of Kraftwerk's stuff, this is music for driving endless miles of motorway in winter dark. There is a Teutonic cold, aloofness to it. The album's cover reflects that too. This track is as gloomy as anything Joy Division did, actually.
Up next is a quite incongruous cover of Chris Montez's 1996 easy-listening pop hit "The More I See You". It has a novelty appeal, I guess and it perfectly listenable but it just sounds odd. I have always wondered why early eighties post-punk/New Romantic UK vocalists had to sing in that haughty tone. Nobody did before, or since. "Promise" returns to the downbeat nature of most of the album. "Stanlow" begins with some factory-sounding, insistent noises and is another mournful track.
The debut album was much more vibrant and intriguing than this one. This one had a pervading mood of misery, depression and dissatisfaction. Although it is a highly credible piece of work, they couldn't keep putting out material as low-key as this. They didn't. The next album saw considerable change.