[sic] Magazine

OMD – History Of Modern

The name OMD means different things to different people. Some will remember the synthpop act with fondness while other recollections will be tempered by moments of toe-curling embarrassment. (See: ‘Walking On The Milky Way’) Even fans of the band can’t agree what OMD represents – a fountain of sickly sweet chart hits, or cutting edge, experimental electro-pop. The simple truth of the matter is, they were all of those things and more. Once likened to dancing Geography teachers, their landmark album Architecture and Morality was shot through with references to Catholicism and let’s not forget they started life on Factory.

At one point OMD were one of the best acts going. They managed the difficult balancing act between radio success and wilful experimentation with ease, simply by being brilliant at both. For every ‘Souvenir’ there was a ‘Sealand’. Their first four albums were littered with morose, odd and beguiling tracks. Then they somehow contrived to ruin the formula. OMD were seduced by America. The hits became ever more transatlantic and the weird and wonderful stuff dried up. Since the group’s artistic nadir, 1996’s truly dreadful, Universal; OMD has been mothballed until a recent re-emergence.

But is this really a comeback and is History Of Modern really a new album? Interestingly, there has been a good deal of hype surrounding the pre-release with one (helpful) ‘source’ claiming History to be the bands best outing since Architecture And Morality. (The implication being History is better than Dazzle Ships, a boast which most serious OMD fans somewhat doubted) Clever move, then. McCluskey, having managed Atomic Kitten , is clearly no stranger to the industry hype machine, but reeling in the OMD faithful in this way does strike me as rather cynical. And here’s the truly ironic part. Opening track, ‘New Babies, New Toys’ sees McCluskey rallying against the industry and manufactured bands in particular.

“They don’t want you, they don’t need you
They just use you, they just bleed you”

You’d know, Andy.
They then follow it up with ‘If You Want It’, a track McCluskey had previously written for….. Atomic Kitten. The girls declined it. OMD make it their lead single. Go figure.

There’s a pattern emerging here. A lot of these songs are old cuttings, dusted off and polished up for 2010 audiences. Apparently ‘Sister Marie Says’ (the next single) was slated for Universal but shelved because it sounded too much like old OMD. It is actually a rip off of ‘Enola Gay’.

For “old OMD” read good OMD.

Feeling cheated yet? Well diehard OMD fans will point out that even outtakes can be worth having. Navigation, the bands b-side album contains some very choice cuts indeed. History Of Modern is less good, but does hang together as an actual album more effectively. The singles are typical sappy OMD but title track is decent and the aforementioned ‘New Babies, New Toys’ is quite superb. There are also homage’s to Moby , Kraftwerk and, at a stretch, Prince (the delightful, and distinctly non-typical, ‘Pulse’) I think there is an element of tongue in cheek here. Even the name History Of Modern, suggests self-reference to me. Before the term synthpop was coined, the likes of Gary Numan and OMD were called futurists. This album is a kind of potted OMD history. Modernism can’t stay ‘new’ forever.

Let’s be honest, OMD are unlikely to win hoards of new fans with this record. But it does have Peter Saville sleeve art and with standouts like ‘New Babies…’ and the dazzling, Dazzle Ships-esque ‘New Holy Ground’, it more than passes muster.

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