Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) were founded in the late 70s and broke through into the mainstream UK charts in 1979 with music that was undeniably weird, thought provoking and downright catchy.
This is best demonstrated by their first single 'Electricity', a primarily electronic upbeat single of the sort bound to find its place in the hearts of the proto-clubbers of 1979, but if you listen to the words you realise that the guy at the microphone (Andy McCluskey) is singing a disturbing warning about the dangers of fossil fuels and the need to find alternative sources of energy.
The single 'Enola Gay' in 1980 went even further, it being one of the most catchy pseudo-dance tunes of the 80s electronic 'style' played under McCluskey's poem about the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. That they somehow got it to work can be seen in the fact that Enola Gay can still be found on juke boxes throughout the UK.
OMD have since then experimented with most forms of music. They experimented with Kraftwerk-inspired pieces throughout their first four albums, culminating in the unique Dazzle Ships album. On the album Crush, OMD experimented along different lines, producing tracks which might be classed as more grunge/indie in style. The Pacific Age had a grand and challenging feel. As ever ahead of their time this album contained the track 'Southern' which blended extracts of Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream" speech with contemporary news reports and set to an uplifting background of the band's music.
The band split up in 1989, yet reformed with a different line up under the singer-songwriter Andy McCluskey. The next two albums, Sugar Tax and Liberator were much more obviously synth-based and more pop in nature. McCluskey continued to maintain his intelligent lyric writing with songs such as 'Pandora's Box' about the black and white movie star Louise Brooks and 'Christine' a heart rending song about a suicidal prostitute.
After hibernating for a while OMD returned in 1996 to release Universal, a mind blowing album with styles ranging from the epic title track (which is about the eternal question of God), through the upbeat indie style 'Walking on the Milky Way' (reflections on a relationship) to the old fashioned 80s style 'The Boy From the Chemist is Here to See You' (about that little model boy who sits outside chemists collecting for charity!). This album was a great commercial success with 'Walking on the Milky Way' receiving constant airplay, much to the joy of long term fans.
This joy was short lived as later that year it was announced that Andy McCluskey was putting OMD into long term storage to pursue other projects - one of which became the hugely successful (if to my ears annoying) Atomic Kitten.
That looked like the end of the group, barring the occasional B-side re-release there was nothing on the horizon for the once great group. Then in early 2006 it was announced that Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Mal Holmes and Martin Cooper would be reforming Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark with a tour. The tour was a success and was followed up by an orchestral perfomance in Liverpool. Later news emerged of a new studio album (working title: "A History of Modern"). This album was released in 2010 and proved to be a mixture of deeply thoughtful lyrics combined (on a majority of tracks) with very catchy electronic music, though with some more reflective pieces thrown in.
Rumours now abound as to the nature of the next album from the reformed group. A possible title English Electric is doing the rounds. As of the time of writing no details have been released as to the content or style of the album, but one thing we can be sure of is that OMD will disturb, entertain, and surprise us all in one glorious package.
The albums currently (2001) available are: