1980, Music

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (1980)

As I listen to evermore synthpop my dislike of the genre is falling away, as I realize that there are songwriters hiding behind the synthesizers, and electronic bass and drums, and the more I discover this, the more I like some of these bands. OMD are one of the innumerable ’80s British bands who were massive in the UK and just didn’t translate to the US. (I believe they had one Top 5 hit in the US in the late ’80s.) So I had no idea about what they sounded like, save that it was synthpop and that it was early.

I’m pleased to report these guys are songwriters and songwriters with a decent degree of diversity given their self-imposed limitations. It feels to me like there’s about as much attention to the actual songwriting as there ever was this early in the genre’s existence. One of my tests for quality songwriting in synthpop is imagining the songs being played on organic instruments and that’s something I can imagine happening with most of these.

They are also musicians: impressively they play all the instruments on the record themselves. Like much early synthpop the bass is still played on an actual guitar, which gives me something to latch on to and gives the whole record a little more of a bottom than it might other have in 1980 (since electronic bass was pretty primitive at the time).

They are also producers: they built their own studio for the record (though someone is credited as an engineer so presumably they didn’t handle that part). This perhaps helps account for the sound of the record, which is very of its time but still not dated like some records from this era are.

All in all it’s very impressive and makes me want to listen to more of their records, though I sort of fear those are more commercial than this.


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