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Noel Draper returns to an old lover only to find the reasons they drifted apart were still present.
Quite a few years ago I decided to go back out with an old girlfriend completely against the advice of my pub going mates. “It will never work”, one said. “The reasons you fell out of love in the first place will still be there”, another declared somewhat out of character. “It’s your round”, said a third, confusingly. Fast forward 6 months and we were all back in the same pub, sitting at the same table, supping the same beer whilst putting the same world to rights. All 3 friends had the same expression on their little fat faces. No one needed to say “I told you so” but it was there, plain for all to see. They were right, of course, I shouldn’t have given it another go. Which brings me neatly onto something else from the distant past that I shouldn’t have given another go, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.
Between 1980 and 1981, OMD released 3 albums, the self titled debut, the quickly released follow up called ‘Organisation’ and and absolute stormer of a record called ‘Architecture & Morality’. All 3 of these albums were completely different to anything I had ever heard before and as such I played them over and over again, annoying my mates and my family in the process. The band then released ‘Dazzle Ships’ in 1983 and began to lose me. By the time their 6th album, ‘Crush’, was released, they had very nearly wiped out any semblance of their dark and moody electronic music mixed with sounds stolen from radio recordings that I loved so much and replaced it with large and horrible slices of Americana electric pop that I despised. I was gone. In fact I was so far gone that I completely ignored the whole of their 90’s output and even missed their 2010 comeback, ‘History of Modern’.
To be honest I also wish I had missed their latest album as well which is a pity as ‘English Electric’ starts out with a lot of promise. Pleasant Japanese and English robotic voices ask us in turn to ‘Please remain seated’ before a beautiful but simple electronic keyboard starts off the albums first song, and lead single, ‘Metroland’. The beginning of the 3rd song, ‘Night Cafe’ also starts with as much promise. As does the next one. And the one after that. In fact, every song on here starts off with a fantastic and varied electronic moment, before descending into a bland European/ American idea of what a ‘New Wave’ band should sound like.
I say every song but what I actually mean is 6 out of the 12 tunes on offer here follow that formula to the letter. Five of the songs are not actual songs but rather electronic voices telling the listener that they want a “House and a car and a robot wife” or clumsily trying to record a homage to Kraftwerk, one of their original inspirations, by counting to ten in English. This leaves one offering which seems to blend the past and the now seamlessly and that song is the fabulously named ‘Helen of Troy’ which is both mesmeric and fresh sounding in equal measures.
If the ideas here had been developed to their full potential then this would have been a (2nd) comeback to shout about. As it is the whole album feels very prescribed and although taking three years to write and release, rushed and devoid of originality. It also could have made my now older and wiser pub going fatter faced mates less smug and not as prone to say “I told you so”. They were right about another thing as well, it was my round. Pint?