July 21, 2010

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

I didn't see these guys come up in a recent poll I ran about under-rated crowd-pleasing music groups of the past 30 years, so figured I'd give them a plug. I heard "If You Leave" in a supermarket late at night last week and sort of recognized it. After looking up the lyrics to see who it was, I picked up The Best of OMD at a used record store for seven or eight bucks, and I've been playing it every day since.

It's one of those greatest hits albums that the band struck before their quality started to flag, and there's such a variety of styles from nearly a decade of work, all of which sound great. With a greatest hits album whose songs all fit together, you figure there's one sound that the band did well, and this is its perfect distillation. But where there are several distinct sounds, as there are here, it only makes you want to track down the albums they're cobbled together from, since you've only gotten a brief taste of each of their sounds.

"Enola Gay" sounds like Joey Ramone and Vince Clarke teamed up to write the perfect dance-punk song. "Souvenir" is almost like a lullaby, except that the just-perceptibly-inorganic timbre of the synthesizers gives it a somewhat disturbing color. "So in Love" pairs a strong bass line with airy vocals (somewhat like "Avalon" by Roxy Music), making it ideal music for cruisin' around when you're in a pensive mood yet need to maintain a masculine, Stoic composure, as shown in the music video. (The YouTube clip's sound quality is not so hot, but it sounds great on CD -- not sure about lower-quality mp3s.)

Even if you think synth pop isn't your thing, you'll still like this if you've been searching the now-barren landscape of pop music for melodies and emotional sincerity.

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