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Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark: History Of Modern

Before surrendering to bland John Hughes sentimentality, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark infused avant-garde circuit-bending with a warm pop heart. History Of Modern—the first true OMD album since recently reunited founders Andrew McCluskey and Paul Humphreys parted in 1989—is meant to recall those early, experimental days, right down to its Peter Saville-designed cover. Occasionally, it works: “Sister Marie Says,” initially scrapped in 1996 for its resemblance to “Enola Gay,” is skeletal synth-pop at its catchiest. The two-part title track and “New Holy Ground” recall the wistful theatricality of Architecture & Morality’s “Joan Of Arc” and Dazzle Ships’ “The Romance Of The Telescope,” respectively. “RWFK” and “The Right Side” pay hypnotic homage to the duo’s Kraftwerk worship. But as with every album since 1984’s Junk Culture, when OMD ceases living in the past, it turns disposable. “New Babies; New Toys” is unconvincing electro-rock bluster. “The Future, The Past, And Forever After” is early-’90s dance-pop dross, right down to its phased snare break. The sleazy “Pulse,” with McCluskey breathing huskily over orgasmic “oohs,” is uncomfortably tacky, like cinnamon-flavored lube in the ear. Also unbecoming: the goofy, wicky-wicky scratching smothering the otherwise moving, Jennifer John-featuring “Sometimes,” which—like the Aretha Franklin-sampling mash-up “Save Me”—prolongs McCluskey’s ill-fitting R&B obsession. It’s a return to form only in the sense that it finds OMD, several decades on, still struggling with its identity.


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