Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

[History of Modern sleeve]"History of Modern" (Album, 2010)

Blue Noise/100%

With band reconciliation and reunification still the main musical movement of choice, few could not be excited by the move to reunite the original line up of OMD. Better still, the prospect of a new album (their first in 14 years) is made all the more mouth watering in the light of how the band dabbled with sugary commercial pop for much of the nineties. They deserve a far better legacy and in many ways, History of Modern delivers it.

Aggressive opener New Babies: New Toys - quite deliberately me thinks - serves to wipe the slate clean. Reminiscent of 88 Seconds in Greesboro' (from the much overlooked Crush album), it is an immediate lyrical and musical return to form. Similarly, the bouncy History of Modern (part 1) maintains a perfect balance between modern electronic pop and the band's glory days. It's also ridiculously catchy. Much in the same way that The Stranglers' 2004 return to form Norfolk Coast had fans spotting all the musical references to previous masterpieces, many of the songs on History of Modern reference some of OMD's greatest work in a way that doesn't demonstrate a lack of ideas. Of course, all this is helped by the arrangements, which have more choral parts than you can shake a baton at.

Sometimes updates Dream of Me (one of the band's better 90s moments), and the haunting New Holy Ground hints at Silent Running from experimental opus Dazzle Ships. Occasionally, the references are a little too close to comfort. Second single from the album Sister Marie Says, apparently written in '82, was not recorded until now because of it's similarity to Enola Gay. I'm not sure what difference that passage of time was supposed to make, as the song inevitably sounds unbearably close to its mentor, but lacking in any of that songs irony. Also, just when all is going well, there are a couple of duffers during the second half. In particular, the R&B influenced sex pop of Pulse is so misguided it does beg the question 'what were they thinking?!' I doubt that even Atomic Kitten could have made a decent stab at it.

Fortunately, McCluskey, Humphreys, Copper and Holmes save the best to last with the Kraftwerkesque The Right Side?, which recalls the band's early tradition of closing albums with extended, atmospheric pieces. More than a match for Stanlow and Sealand, it easily ranks among OMD's finest moments. 7/10

Erik Stein (February 2011)