History Of Modern by OMD (Bright Antenna/ILG)
It was the Summer of 1988 – KROQ was blasting all over Southern California and a concert at the Rose Bowl would be one of the most talked about experiences for years to come. On the bill were Depeche Mode, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (aka OMD), Thomas Dolby and Wire. All bands were at the very pinnacles of their careers. Depeche Mode had just unleashed their stunning Music For The Masses album and OMD had an extremely well received Best Of collection on the market featuring the Top 20 US Hit Dreaming. The concert drew over 60,000 people, setting an attendance record at the historic Pasadena venue for a live performance. Highwire Daze was two years away from becoming a reality, but most of the staff was indeed in attendance at this event.
It would not take long for dramatic changes to occur in the OMD camp – co-founder Paul Humphreys would leave one year later with the other band mates to follow suit – all winding up together in the short lived The Listening Pool. Andy McCluskey would re-invent OMD as a solo project, releasing a trio of underrated albums, concluding with the introspective Universal in 1996.
After nearly a decade, core members Humpreys and McCluskey would reform and tour with the classic lineup. But it would not be until 2010 when new material would finally see the dawning of a new day. History Of Modern is the 11th opus of electronic wonderment for OMD, and the 14 tracks found within were definitely worth the wait. Featuring the classic OMD lineup, History Of Modern is a brilliant, artistic affair cementing the fact that OMD remains one of the most influential electronic bands on the scene today.
New Babies New Toys kicks the disc off on a triumphant note, instantly closing in on the years in hibernation with a staggeringly infectious track. If You Want It is a single of anthem-like proportions – one expects to see crowds singing along and waving lighters to this 21st century OMD classic. History Of Modern Parts 1 & 2 continues the exploration through the connection of the electronic past with the hopes and ambitions of a glorious new future – a dazzling duet of melodic reveries.
Sometimes is vivid and hypnotic, with it’s melancholic “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child” chorus. New Holy Ground is somber, yet even in the quietest of moments, OMD can challenge the senses of their listeners. And those who want to dance it up New Order style will be able wrap the heads around the shimmering beats of The Future.
One of the most exciting tracks on History Of Modern shows up midway through with Sister Mary Says. A musical cousin to the OMD fan favorite Joan Of Arc, Sister Mary Says is laced with a wondrous operatic female vocal and a classic Andy McCluskey vocal that sends the material soaring – sure to be yet another OMD concert staple for the many years to come.
Pulse is a primal piece whose playful techno beats should send many hearts racing as toes tapping – you’ll want to hit the dance floor with this should be hit single is unleashed. The Right Side is a definite tribute to all things Kraftwerk, with its vintage electro-chords and dreamy choral-like inflections.
Be sure to stick this one out to the end for the most raging surprise to ever be found on an OMD release. One notices right away the samples from the OMD hit single classic Messages as well as subtle hints of Kraftwerk’s Europe Endless all within the pulsating soundscape. And then, the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin lets loose, delivering a thoroughly magical vocal. Genres and the passages of time collide and the result is absolutely staggering.
New favorites are sure to be found with repeated encounters of History Of Modern. Some of their contemporaries continue to fade out of the limelight, but OMD is sure to find a whole generation of admirers to thrill while continuing to delight and impress their core fan base.
History Of Modern is the epitome of the perfect comeback album – a colossal return to form for a band ready to take on the challenges of the 21st century while retaining the charming qualities of their past glories. All fans of electronic pop must check into what this influential band has to offer. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another decade or so for the next mighty OMD collection of wondrous sound. If you compare this effort to their classic work, History Of Modern is an off-the-map achievement for this progressive age.
(Review by Kenneth Morton)
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