1984, Music

Junk Culture (1984) by Orchestral Manouvres in the Dark

This is my first experience of OMD but perhaps it is not the best place to start. This band was one of those that was so much bigger in the UK than North America, I don’t think I could even name their biggest hit. (I am trying right now, without looking it up, and I can’t.) From reading, it seems like this is not necessarily regarded as their best album. Oh well.

As I have said elsewhere, I don’t generally like or get synthpop. I find it dated and I find the idea that music should just be made with synthesizers to be kind of hilarious. In addition, it’s rarely the kind of music I like, even if it was made with more traditional instruments.

But the presence of more traditional instruments usually helps bridge the gap somewhat, and that’s definitely the case here. Though some tracks are aggressively electronic, other tracks contain guitars, basses, live drums, saxophones, percussion, etc. These instruments help me connect to the music that I otherwise don’t like.

But I can’t say I like the music that much – it veers from pretty generic synthpop (as far as I can tell) to more experimental flirtations with electronic music that would have been pretty daring in the early ’80s but were likely fairly commonplace by 1984. It’s a weird combination; I don’t know enough about the band’s backstory to know specifically why they were doing that, but they do it, and I don’t know that it works.

But it’s a relatively interesting record for a genre that often just has 10-12 tracks of someone singing over a few synthesizers and electronic beats, so that’s something.


  1. “Junk Culture” (Paul Humphreys, Andy McCluskey) 4:06
  2. “Tesla Girls” (Humphreys, McCluskey) 3:51
  3. “Locomotion” (Humphreys, McCluskey, Gordian Troeller) 3:53
  4. “Apollo” (McCluskey) 3:39
  5. “Never Turn Away” (Humphreys, McCluskey) 3:57
  6. “Love and Violence” (Humphreys, McCluskey) 4:40
  7. “Hard Day” (Humphreys, McCluskey) 5:59
  8. “All Wrapped Up” (Humphreys, McCluskey) 4:25
  9. “White Trash” (Humphreys, McCluskey, Martin Cooper) 4:35
  10. “Talking Loud and Clear” (Humphreys, McCluskey, Cooper) 4:20
  • Paul Humphreys: vocals, Roland Jupiter 8, E-mu Emulator, Korg M-500 Micro Preset, acoustic piano, Fairlight CMI, celeste, Prophet 5
  • Andy McCluskey: vocals, bass guitar, guitar, Roland Jupiter 8, E-mu Emulator, Fairlight CMI, Latin percussion
  • Martin Cooper: Prophet 5, E-mu Emulator, tenor and soprano saxophones, Roland SH2, marimba
  • Malcolm Holmes: acoustic and electronic drums, Latin percussion, drum computer programming

Additional performers:

  • Gordan Troeller: piano on “Locomotion”, Roland Jupiter 8 on “White Trash”
  • Maureen Humphreys: vocals on “Tesla Girls”
  • Jan Faas, Jan Vennik, Bart van Lier: brass section on “Locomotion” and “All Wrapped Up”
  • Tony Visconti: brass arrangements on “Locomotion” and “All Wrapped Up”

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