Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: History of Modern

OMD: History of Modern
I have been on this 80s kick lately. I think it started from watching USA’s Psych. They had the lead singer of Tears for Fears on the show playing “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” acoustically. That got me downloading Tears for Fears which turned me back on to The Church and Echo & the Bunnymen. It feels like this whole 80s obsession is coming full circle now that I get to review Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark‘s 11th studio album, History of Modern. The album is the group’s first album in 14 years and first album since reforming in 2006.
When listening to OMD, it is hard not to think of their 80s catalog. “If You Leave” became a cornerstone of the decade by not only being an awesome song but being featured prominently in the decades greatest movie, Pretty in Pink (that was some hyperbole that I don’t even believe). Although the group never quite scored as big of a hit in America again, they were stalwarts of the alternative rock movement with tracks like “Enola Gay”. But not being able to forget OMD’s back catalog is not terrible when listening to History of Modern. Unlike many 80s bands that are trying to make their way into the new millennium, OMD have not forgotten their 80s roots.
“Sister Marie Says” features a punchy 80s drum beat and retro synths. The tracks high energy and poppy hook makes it irresistible even though it probably would have been much more successful released in 1984. The cheese factor is only upped by the whispered backing vocals on the chorus.
There is plenty of cheese on the album, which might have bothered me if I had not been listening to so much 80s music recently so I feel immune to it. But History of Modern is not entirely stuck in the 80s. Opening track “New Babies; New Toys” has a more modern post-punk sound. It vaguely reminds me of something from New York Dolls‘ 2006 album, One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This. The drums are peppy, the bass is fuzzy, and the vocals have that punk sneer to them. The track does still feature a good amount of synths but they are more modern-techno sounding synths than that 80s shimmery retro synth. The track serves well as the album opener.
Although History of Modern does have some weak points. The eight-and-a-half minute “The Right Side?” is one of the album’s major stinkers. The track is somewhere between krautrock and glitch pop, like Trio being remixed by Flying Lotus but in a long and boring way.
Luckily there are not too many low points on the album. For the most part, OMD really records a pretty solid album. I fail to see if this album will really garner them many new fans, but perhaps that is not their goal with the album. If their goal was to record an album that should keep fans fairly happy, I say “mission accomplished”.
Rating: 7.5/10
MP3: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark “New Babies; New Toys”
Buy: iTunes or Insound!

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