Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark "ARCHITECTURE & MORALITY" (Dindisc, 1981)
OMD was found in 1979 by Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys and with the first four albums they established a mixture of nice electronic melodies and experimental tunes. The band gained a growing success in Europe which reached its peak with the third album "Architecture & Morality". With their fifth longplayer they started to set their sights on the U.S. market and their music became a little shallow. In 1988 Humphreys left OMD and McCluskey started all over with new musicians, most notably recording the album "Sugar Tax" in 1991. But their pop music formula seemed to fail in the 90s with the following albums selling badly. So the band split up eventually in 1996, leaving McCluskey as songwriter and manager of other bands.
Last year they announced the reunion of the original line up, with live concerts and a re-realease of "Architecture & Morality" in 2007. Please note that I reviewed the original LP and not that re-release (trying to ignore for the most part the degradation of the sound).
THE NEW STONE AGE Oh my God, what have they done this time? A clacking guitar and a tugging synthesizer scream that shapes some kind of a hookline. McCluskey's rousing singing makes you wonder what they have planned for this album. If it wasn't for the harmless percussions this one could have gone way over the top. Still, it is a disturbing start. 7.0
SHE'S LEAVING A warm synthie sky opens. This is the catchy, mild and light side of OMD. Andy whispers treacly some sad lyrics about the end of an affair. Like in the first song there is no real chorus here, more a verse-melody-verse-melody-pattern. Nothing special, but charming. 6.5
SOUVENIR This is sung by Humphreys, who played the Martin Gore role before Depeche Mode. He has a rather dreamy and soft voice that is not as versatile as Andy's. The song was a single, if I remember correctl
y, but strangely enough never impressed me all that much (at least not as much as other singles of that OMD period did). A bell like synthesizer plays the catchy theme that stands out, Paul's singing tries to make you cry, and the only odd part comes in a break with some ugly strings. 7.0
SEALAND A long and unconventional piece. Some sound scraps echo through the electronic harbour. An accordion plays sadly through the fog. Reminds me of Kraftwerk, only that OMD sound much warmer here, not least because of Andy's empathetic singing that is added to the mix after a few minutes. This track shows what impact his voice can have amidst all this coldly calculated machinery. Brilliant epic that impresses with little things. 9.0
JOAN OF ARC Starts with squeaky voices used as an instrument. A song that builds its theme slowly and becomes more thrilling with every verse. For my liking the very pop rhythm could have been less monotonous. For the lyrics (and that of the next song) McCluskey used his affinity to history, although by telling the story from a weird perspective it gives it kind of a double meaning. Again, he gives it all in this song by nearly escalating into screams. 8.0
JOAN OF ARC (MAID OF ORLEANS) Legend has it that OMD originally planned this song also to be named just "Joan Of Arc", thus having two songs with the same name on one album. Would have been fun in my opinion, especially since both songs were taken from the album as singles... A mysterious beginning with synthesizers sounding like warming up. Then you hear that ingenious hookline, played by the choir sound Mellotron that OMD used on this album frequently and became a constant companion of their music. A popping snare waltzing to a three-four time and Andy McCluskey's intense singing lead the earworm to dramatic heights. This is a classic that shows that the simple things are sometimes the most effective. 10.0
ARCHITECTURE AND MORALITY This one starts with some chimes just waiting for an announcement in a space station waiting room. Then you get some Doom like background noise, another synthie and a bass. Some breaks create dramatic silence. And finally the sound experimentation begins. Soundtrack for a silent movie about crashed ego shooters. 7.5
GEORGIA After all this darkness back to a more easy to handle song. There is, like in the earlier pop pieces of this album, this naivity, but also superficiality. Then again: It is the contrast between songs like "Architecture And Morality" and "Georgia" that makes it interesting, and whenever OMD provided an album with that contrast, it turned out to be an excellent collection of music. You have to give them credit for writing some really good melodies, too. And finally, "Georgia" treats you with a little more variety than, for example, "Souvenir", and even some sampling. 8.0
THE BEGINNING AND THE END A slow farewell, nice composition with music box melody and guitar. Once again benefits from Andy's fine singing. Apart from that there is not much to miss here. 6.0
[Artwork] Black and white photographs that play with light and shadow. Peter Saville, who always tries to create something unconventional with little means, gave the design his distinctive touch. Allegedly the 2007 re-release contains a bigger booklet with some more information. 7.5
Conclusion It is hard to imagine that this album actually had quite a commercial success in Europe at that time, considering its sometimes difficult and experimental tracks. Even the unconventional structure of the major hit "Maid Of Orleans" probably would have nowadays prevented it from even be considered a single release. I personally find it hard to really pick one OMD album as their best, but "Architecture & Morality" surely is a perfect start for someone who wants to familiarize with their work, as it assembles all their different approaches to music. Overall Rating: 7.65