The weird and wonderful world of OME

Mark McNulty

Almost 40 years ago, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark started as an attempt to capture the sound of the future.

Like the rest of the UK, pogo to punk and danced to Boney M., Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys were pulling to see components from old radios, what kind of sounds you could make, in your parents back room.

In 1980, Smash Hits was called “the acceptable face of the Synthesizer”, a British variant on the power plant-cerebral machine music.

“We were fascinated by weird German music and write songs about oil refineries,” laughs McCluskey, “so that no one was more surprised than us that we have asked, the pictures, and then we sold millions of records”.

Thanks to songs such as Enola Gay, Souvenir and Joan of Arc, six top-10 albums and made 29 appearances in Top of the Pops. For McCluskey, the monotony, the taping of the TV show was alleviated by the encounters that he would do at BBC Television Centre.

“The studios all had the same small cafe, so if you were lucky, you would end up with a Cup of tea with some cybermen.”

But in the face of the band, the enthusiasm for everything, pre, what with hi-tech and sci-fi (McCluskey ‘ s-fame-band Dalek I Love you), you’ve always been suspicious of our automated overlords, and it is a theme that continues on their latest album, The punishment of luxury

The title track is a scathing indictment of our consumer culture; while precision and decay comments on the mechanization of the industry, and how plant closures can decimate communities.

These motifs are common to a plurality of 2017’s biggest albums, including Arcade Fire Everything Now, and Gorillaz’ Humanz and McCluskey says that you turn on, it should be clear who has “your brain”.

“For the most part, people are better than we ever have before and yet we find ourselves more stressed, anxious, and unhappy – why is this so?”, he asks.

“In terms of generations living in the now” gone,” was a simple case of working continuously for 24 hours a day, food on the table and keep the roof over your head; while you keep the thumb, that it is not war and plague.

“Now you don’t have to work so hard for your food, and your house, so you have time for your brain to worry begins.

“How many counsellors and psychotherapists have pointed out that the most fearful place to be in your own head. It is not good.”

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His fear is stark most clearly on La Mitrailleuse, eerie composition, where McCluskey is heard the phrase, “bend your body the will of the machine over a rhythm track built by machine gun fire.

It was inspired by a trip to the Imperial war Museum, where the musicians came on a picture – La Mitrailleuse, called by Christopher Nevinson.

Dating from 1915, shows a group of machine-gunners huddled in a trench, little more than extensions of the weapons they held.

Nevinson had painted it while on honeymoon vacation from his job as an ambulance driver on the Western front, at the time, it was extremely controversial. Critics, including the army, said he had cancelled the soldiers ” contribution to the war effort.

“Today, of course, everyone takes the mechanized army, of course,” Nevinson later recalled, “but in those early days, I came into the hot water, simply because I paint the first one was it.”

McCluskey, who wanted to study art, before OMD drew, was fascinated by the painting.

“It is actually described as the First world war was the first mechanized war, where there is not only the hand-to-hand fight was, it was not industrialized slaughter,” he says.

“And written next to it, in the blurb on the wall. it is this set had a bent: ‘the will of the machine’ and I was like, ‘I am!’

“But of course, there is a larger context, and with the increasing sophistication of computers, robotics and algorithms, we are now in the twilight of the great parts of humanity, to be unemployed, you can of computers and machines that can do your job better than you.”

100% records

For now, McCluskey, the panel computer is based on become obsolete. Punishment of Luxury was written to the hum voltage, and composed of the people, though, the musician admits that he is no longer with synthesizers and recorded everything in his Mac.

“If Paul and I have to say, it horrified the purists!” he laughs. “Many of them have the mentality:” I want the original Jupiter 8 [synthesizer] or I want a mini-Moog!’

“OK, you can buy them on eBay, and you try to carry it around!

“All the sounds we use are actually software Synthesizer and you know what? Most people say they can tell the difference, but you can’t, actually.”

An exception comes on the glittering, six-minute-Ghost star, which illustrate uses field recordings of birds, a lyric move through the healing power of love.

“Yes, I found myself standing in Portmeirion, and you will hear the haunting sound of the Curlews come about the mouth,” says McCluskey. “The Problem was, I knew what they were… and it got me several days of Googling bird singing, until I find them.

“But the shots were not good enough, so I had to go and start my own. There are in my waders!”


It is an approach that would reject most of the bands in their fourth decade, but McCluskey and Humphreys are correct studio Maverick, and dredge constantly, new sounds, and the optimization of existing in search of the perfect song.

But in a nice reversal of the album, the themes of technological wizardry always takes second place to melody and emotion.

“You have a dozen good ideas for an experiment, then you listen to them and go, ‘I want to hear that again? No, I don’t’,” says McCluskey. “So it takes sort of time, the things going on musically as well as intellectually.”

Accordingly, the album, the most, the track comes in its simplest song – What Have you Done, a gloomy ballad, the measurement of the rubbled ruins of a relationship.

“In essence, Paul is a breakdown of the relationships went through a big change,” explains McCluskey and his musical partner – probably the separation of Propaganda based on Humphreys’ singer Claudia Brucken in 2013.

“It has changed a lot: they move, you know, the catastrophic fall, which dates back to the end of a relationship.

“And the strange, sad, lonely thread that connects all of them their dog. Some people might think, it’s pretty trivial, but actually it was the last straw. That was the moment, where he suddenly went, ‘OK, now I’m looking at the big picture, now I’m looking at the last disconnect’.

“It is, therefore, to think about how we came to this sad, melancholy place, where something is beautiful, is no longer in existence.”

Mark McNulty

It is a sign of OMD Mature, you can use a delicate, abandoned song in the middle of the album, about the civilization, and the existential crisis.

But they have always found ways to connect the head and the heart. Also on the Enola Gay, ” their biggest hit, the bombing of Hiroshima from the perspective of the pilot, his mother, and how she feels about her son.

“The thing is,” says McCluskey, “it is quite heavy, the emotional over an intellectual issue, [but] over the years, I’ve managed to find a way – largely by you in the metaphor.”

The album, he explains, “is a conversation we want with ourselves, and we have a relevant conversation.

“And if it’s relevant to us, then we hope that we will be sent to the blend, and it will resonate with other people.”

The punishment of luxury, is out now.

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