Friday, June 8, 2018

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

Dazzle Ships (AM6)

Peter Saville
Dazzle Ships  was one of those stellar albums that rip away popularity and leave many shaking their heads – meanwhile a scant few come to the realization that this is exactly the LP that should have been release (in that ars gratia artis ideology that few are willing to pursue once the taste of success rears its hideous mug). Following the beautiful simplicity of Architecture & Morality, the public wanted more; like a first taste of sugar on cereal, the kiddy populous wanted Froot Loops. They got Dazzle Ships (the cereal equivalent to Post Toastees).

A melancholy concept album steeped in Cold War-era existential angst and Kraftwerk-indebted technological fetishism, Dazzle Ships was a huge commercial misstep for Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (please don’t call this iteration OMD). It was also a work of inventive and affecting art, one whose scathing reception upon release shocked the synth-pop innovators into chasing New Romantic pabulum and John Hughes soundtracks. But from the short-circuit snaps of “Radio Waves” and “Telegraph” to the mournfully post-apocalyptic ballads “The Romance Of The Telescope,” “Silent Running,” and “Of All The Things We Made,” Dazzle Ships is a bravely ambitious statement, a forward-thinking gamble in a genre that became increasingly swallowed by cheap resignation. Dazzle Ships is an album for 3am, an LP which lacks song and substance, instead it is art and a statement that retrospectively can be realized in the same way that we appreciate Peter Saville’s ambient interpretation of the Edward Wadsworth painting entitled Painting of Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool, 1919.

Edward Wadsworth, 1919
[During World War I, the British and United States Navies adopted dazzle ship camouflage on their warships, resulting in "razzle dazzle" vessels that looked like the brainchild of Picasso. Despite the widespread use, nobody knew for sure whether razzle-dazzle worked; a computer-based study on human visual perception yielded mixed results.]

Architecture & Morality (AM9)

Played this to absolute death - scratched to fuck it is, to the point of being unplayable, sigh! I must remember to hit up Amazon and invest in a 180 gram copy.  Why?  Because it's eternally fantastic, that's why, and part of the ambient filmscore to back my youth.  "The New Stone Age" is a calculated risk for the album's introduction, as its dissonance belies the serene pop/art tracks to follow, a risk that paid off in spades. "Souvenir" and "Joan Of Arc (Maid Of Orleans)" are pillars that still hold up the Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark card castle in my mind. Epic beautiful songs. Of course "Souvenir" became a huge in the UK and an alternative staple in the U.S, as did the dirgy "Joan of Arc" among the Joy Division Shoegaze set. Architecture & Morality's other joys include "Sealand," an artsy, pastoral romp dripping with melancholy synth lines and enough moody transport to wisk one off to Bath, all that's missing is seagull samples (thankfully). The title track, which carries on the tradition of Organisation's "Stanlow," ( industrial hisses, etc.) acts as a nice respite on the way to the super poppy "Georgia." Belatedly (critical reception was cool), Music Maker described Architecture & Morality as "the first true masterpiece of the eighties." Robin Denselow in The Guardian said that "She's Leaving" was  "the sort of song that Paul McCartney might have written if he'd grown up with the synthesizer bands of '81." That's a bit of an overstatement, the kind of critical backtracking apparent when an LP is overlooked upon its release (indeed the band decided not to release "She's Leaving" as a single).