British synth-pop band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (often shortened to OMD) released their eleventh album on Monday--it's their first release since 1996's Universal. OMD were pretty big in the '80s, throughout the first half of the decade they delivered a string of top 5 hits, notably 1984's "Locamotion" which scored the band their 5th top 5 hit in the UK. After string of chart failures between 1985 and 1990, the band delivered one more top 5 "Sailing on the Seven Seas," in 1991, before hitting a commercial decline soon after and after regular changes in line-up, they disbanded in 1996 after the release of Universal.
But now they're back after 14 years with History of Modern. The band's comeback album is a newly refined clash of rock, synth-pop underscored with electronic undertones--it's a pretty riveting mix, but there's a lot here that doesn't work, it's a 13-track album with a lot of filler and similar sounding tracks. The first two tracks are great though. Opening the album is the piercing rock of "New Babies: New Toys" shadowed with a later of static and mudded vocals--backed with energetic synths, drums and driven by bursts of melodies in the fist thrusting chorus. Lead single "If You Want It" is a stunner, trailing from '80s stadium rock grandeur influences, pushing through large doses of hard hitting melodies in the chorus.
The title track "History of Modern" is split into two parts. Part 1 is a pulsing electronic synth-driven piece mimicked with heavy bass lines. Part 2 isn't as electronic, it's more trancy with cool psychedelic dance beats and piercing synths to compliment. "Sometimes" is budding mid-tempo, carried by female vocals and a light-hearted touch of atmosphere with birds chirping and sunny soundscapes.
"RKWK" is charged with layers of soundscape, synths and cooling bass lines, although it's not a standout and beings a string of duds. Next up is "New Holy Ground," an underwhelming airy ballad laced with angelic piano keys and a sea of orchestral "ahhs," string and heavy orchestration, but wheres the cool build up to a heart-throbbing climax you would expect? On that note, it disappoints--it seems to just plod along until the end. "The Future, the Past, and Forever After," is a flat--almost too identical re-call of '80s synth/dance-pop--plodding with rapid but ineffective dance beats.
Similar is "Sister Mary Says," also re-calling '80s dance-pop--backed with dance beats but not really amounting to anything. "Pulse," cranks up the fun--warbling with spacey soundscapes and quirky lyrics ("put your finger on my pulse/don't stop until you got it") backed with sexual breathing beneath the sparkling '80s production. It's good, but not as good as anything on the first half of the album. "Green," is charged with trembling lines of synth and subtle bass lines, backed with airy orchestration. It's not bad.
After that point, there's not much more I like--the last two tracks "The Right Side?" and "Bondage of Fate" don't really do anything for me. I haven't listened to any of OMD's previous albums--not even their most successful 1981's Architecture & Morality, but critics do say History in Modern isn't as good as their previous work; which is understandable--it's not the '80s anymore, they're not irrelevant but out of their element now but my gripe with the album is that it's not a solid one, only a handful of tracks that stick.
Best: If You Want It, New Babies New Toys, History of Modern Parts 1 and 2, Sometimes