Four decades has seen – give or take a decade break – Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (OMD) sell an astonishing 25 million singles and 15 million albums, establishing them as electronic synthesiser pioneers and one of Britain’s best-loved pop groups. Their 13 long players include benchmark-raising classics Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (1980), Organisation (1980), Architecture & Morality (1981) and Dazzle Ships (1983). Three more since their reactivation 12 years ago have culminated in 2017’s The Punishment Of Luxury, which was hailed by fans and critics alike as a return to the shimmering brilliance of classic early singles such as nuclear lament Enola Gay and the plangent Souvenir. Their incredible career and 40th anniversary was celebrated in 2019 with the release of a momentous anniversary box-set and critically-acclaimed world tour.
OMD always had a sense of semi-classical grandeur, and the nuances of their music demonstrate how, for all their hits, they have simultaneously remained uncompromising and innovative over successive decades. Once upon a time, Factory boss Wilson told the two teenage Kraftwerk fans, “You are the future of pop music”, and indeed sounds and production techniques which OMD were using way back in 1980 have become part of the fabric of how today’s pop is made.
But while OMD can rightly take their place in the lineage of electronic pop pioneers that stretches from Kraftwerk to Gary Numan, from the Human League to, much later Underworld and Orbital – and a key influence on current acts – there was always a warmth and wistful emotional quality to their songs that has consistently made them different.
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