Release Date: Sep 1, 2017
Record label: 100% Records
For a band that relies so much on technology to create their music, OMD has always seemed terrified by the modern world. Over the course of four amazing albums in the early 1980s, they mined this fear for some timeless, delectable pop music. The band was prescient, too; an early hit like “Messages” now sounds like an eerie premonition of the isolation and loneliness fostered by the digital age. OMD’s discomfort peaked with the brilliant dystopian concept album Dazzle Ships (1983), after which they surrendered to the 20th century and moved toward complacent, stylized synthpop.
The new technology backlash starts here. On the face of it, it’s a brave move to take new media to task when your music is built on the very source of its power, but OMD have never been an outfit for doing things by halves. Since their return in 2010 Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys have steadily been regaining past glories, and The Punishment Of Luxury sees them move up another notch in quality and expression.
OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) have the amazing knack for releasing new music and having it always sound like it can only be OMD. And very good OMD at that. Unconcerned with rewriting their '80s glory, their new records are instead a modern-day continuation of the classic sound begun decades ago. Homages to the major-key melody and railway-synth-movement of Kraftwerk's "Europe Endless" have been prevalent on recent records and The Punishment of Luxury is no exception.
Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys took synthpop to the masses and the top of the charts throughout the 80s and early 90s before burning out. Since re-forming in ’06, OMD have earnt accolades for new material and kudos for their work in shaping British electronic music. As with their last outing, 2013’s English Electric, this LP sees the duo drop anchor in waters dominated by Kraftwerk. The extended pulse of Isotope sounds like Europe Endless reimagined with a driving four-to-the-floor beat.
In 1983, OMD threatened to derail their career with the defiantly leftfield Dazzle Ships. A sense of that adventurous spirit permeates this 12-track collection but Andy and Paul’s flair for infectious melody actually steers this comfortably away from the chillier extremes of that earlier well-regarded but commercially-limited opus. Euphoric synths offer easy accessibility to the album’s title track, but the less instant cuts ultimately deliver far more. Ballads What Have We Done and One More Time offer generous depth with their aching synth scales heightening a sense of drama.