Released: October 27
Following up one of their most acclaimed releases was never going to be easy, but Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s 14th album holds up among the finest work of their 45-year career.
Centred on its title song – “a metaphor for strength and artist passion in the face of criticism and adversity,” according to Andy McCluskey – the LP came as a surprise to the duo and was born of the pandemic when he and Paul Humphreys found themselves separated with a creative itch to scratch.
“When times are hard, there is a tendency for governments to look at cutting funding for creativity, just at the moment when the arts are most needed to nourish our souls,” adds the vocalist of the LP, much of which explores the future of planet Earth and the trajectory of the human race given its current path.
If the opening track and title song is among the record’s more abstract offerings, follow-up Anthropocene plainly explores our impact on the world over one of the record’s most infectious dance tracks.
It’s sister song, Evolution Of Species, picks things up later on down the line, with the stark opening – ‘Death / Mutation / Birth / Generation after generation’ – reflecting a more ominous instrumentation. But across the album the duo showcases what they do best; combining classic pop hooks with direct, often devastating, lyrics.
And the more pointed the subject matter, the more infectious the track; venturing into political pop territory, Kleptocracy calls out corruption at the top over one of the album’s most danceable tunes, while the catchy, singalong Don’t Go – originally released in 2019 from the band’s singles collection, ‘Souvenir’ – follows a similar formula with a more personal narrative.
There are exceptions; a spiky industrial instrumental underpins Slow Train, a different beast for OMD, while the pulsing G.E.M. showcases a darker side to the duo. A pair of ballads, Veruschka and Healing, strip everything back and place their melodies, lyrics and vocals front and centre.
In the 17 years since OMD reformed, they’ve released four albums, determined only to put out new material when there’s something to be said. This time around, Andy and Paul draw on the world around them – and yes, there’s plenty there to draw on – for an album that’s strikingly fresh, current and relevant while remaining undisputedly timeless.
‘Bauhaus Staircase’ is, in itself, a standout LP – the fact it arrives more than four decades into OMD’s record-releasing career is even more impressive.