OMD's English Electric

Slow. Dissolve. As opposed to slow dazzle. Cinematic synth-pop owing at least as much to German Expressionism as the actually Krautrock Kraftwerk they salute through synth and textures.

Impeccable ‘tis, in counterpoint and timbre, to the point where even the lads themselves can’t repli-perfect themselves onstage. One small problem, though: Nobody’s talking about what gets dissolved, slowly. That turns out to be love. Remember love?

So Andy McCluskey leads with the broken-hearted devastation of “Metroland” and the refusal to move on from devastation (think Larry McMurtry’s Sonny Crawford in Texasville, hallucinating picture shows in the ruined movie theater). “Night Café” underscores the breakup, a devil-may-care shrug, a re-commitment to alcoholism.

“Helen of Troy” works as another regal portrait of a historical woman but this time the woman really is history and our narrator can’t resist imperious put-downs (“stupid girl”…”cries all day/cries all night”); that’s the “I’m better off” bit, throwing a retroactive sinister shadow on those previous portraits.

Then the lodestone, the electronic salvation: “Kissing the Machine.” In which McCluskey crows (soulfully) “What I say is what she’ll do,” and the submission and longing held over in soul from gospel splits off from the technical ecstasy. Our man longs no more. The dissolving (leaving) flesh is not only weak but defiant. Only the machine is (theoretically) immortal and endlessly obedient.

Now that may not be love, to quote Randy Newman — but our man thinks it’s alright. I’m leaving it up to you. But I hope you at least remember love.

  • Album: English Electric
  • Artist: OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark as opposed to Ozark Mountain Daredevils)
  • Label: BMG/100%
  • Songs: (1) Please Remain Seated (2) Metroland (3) Night Café (4) The Future Will Be Silent (5) Helen of Troy (6) Our System (7) Kissing the Machine (8) Decimal (9) Stay with Me (10) Dresden (11) Atomic Ranch (12) Final Song

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