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OMD - The Punishment Of Luxury (Album Review)

Thursday, 07 September 2017 Written by Graeme Marsh

Photo: Mark McNulty

Having enjoyed a notable resurgence with 2010’s comeback album ‘History of Modern’, electronic pioneers Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark quickly followed it up with another worthy addition to their canon: 2013’s ‘English Electric’. This quick one-two defied expectations after some 14 years of radio silence.

Given the band’s enviable singles discography, though, it’s perhaps not accurate to describe it as radio silence at all. Their 1980s synth-pop nuggets were regularly wheeled out during their absence, particularly Enola Gay and, to a degree, their magnificent ‘Architecture & Morality’-era tributes to the French saint Joan of Arc.

On their self-produced 13th studio album, ‘The Punishment of Luxury’, the duo find themselves nodding at historical reference points again. The title is taken from an 1891 painting by Giovanni Segantini that has long been displayed in their hometown, Liverpool.

But the tracks themselves deal with a horrifyingly accurate portrayal of modern day beliefs and practices, where many westerners find themselves better off yet ironically more unhappy with life compared to our ancestors.

In 1983, OMD split their fanbase by releasing the avant-garde ‘Dazzle Ships’, a contentious decision in light of the phenomenal success of the masterpiece ‘Architecture & Morality’. They have revisited their experimental urges here, if only fleetingly.

The machine-gun peppering of La Mitrailleuse echoes these past tendencies, its lyrics telling us to “bend your body to the will of the machine”. The familiar usage of vocal sampling blends with a bass melody and bleak backdrop during Precision & Decay, while Robot Man conjures images of a production line.

The album’s sense of political unease reaches its peak on Kiss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Bang. The song spits venom: “Fuck you and your theory.” That comes as a startling surprise from upstanding stalwarts like OMD. They are clearly raging at current events.

The Shakespeare-quoting single Isotype is one of a number of tracks to contrast with these bleak cuts, though. Arpeggiated synths, vocal samples and Casio keyboard sounds recall Kraftwerk in impressive style, with the vocals guiding rather than dominating over the course of its six minutes.

The only other track of such length – Ghost Star – is another winner to emerge from quiet beginnings. Three minutes in, a persistent keyboard hook leads to swooning synth chords and the sort of fabulous melody that the band seemingly have on tap.

There are also several songs here that hew closely to OMD’s staple diet of pretty synth-pop, among them the bittersweet One More Time, the ‘Junk Culture’-indebted title track and stuttering closer The View From Here.

Like Blancmange, OMD continue to make relevant music some 40 years after they first appeared. ‘The Punishment of Luxury’ is another worthwhile contribution, even if it doesn’t quite match the calibre of the band’s recent releases.

OMD Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon October 23 2017 - DUBLIN Vicar Street
Tue October 24 2017 - BELFAST Mandela Hall
Sun October 29 2017 - LIVERPOOL Liverpool Empire Theatre
Mon October 30 2017 - BRISTOL Colston Hall
Wed November 01 2017 - SOUTHEND Cliffs Pavilion
Thu November 02 2017 - IPSWICH Ipswich Regent Theatre
Fri November 03 2017 - CAMBRIDGE Corn Exchange
Sun November 05 2017 - LEICESTER De Montfort Hall
Mon November 06 2017 - NOTTINGHAM Nottingham Royal Concert Hall
Tue November 07 2017 - SHEFFIELD Sheffield City Hall
Thu November 09 2017 - READING Hexagon
Fri November 10 2017 - SOUTHAMPTON O2 Guildhall Southampton
Sat November 11 2017 - GUILDFORD G Live
Mon November 13 2017 - LONDON Roundhouse
Wed November 15 2017 - BEXHILL ON SEA De La Warr Pavilion
Fri November 17 2017 - MANCHESTER Academy
Sat November 18 2017 - YORK York Barbican
Sun November 19 2017 - GLASGOW Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Tue November 21 2017 - BIRMINGHAM Symphony Hall
Wed November 22 2017 - GATESHEAD Sage Gateshead

Click here to compare & buy OMD Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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