Influential yet underappreciated music
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 11/12/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I've always looked upon The Best of OMD as the most disposable CD in my collection, so I thought it would be fun to review it, as a change of pace if nothing else. I can't begin to say how many years it had been since I listened to this album. It's actually a bit serendipitous, as just recently I've begun trying to get a handle on this whole "synthpop" thing, never remembering I had a musical retrospective of one of the more influential synthpop groups close at hand all the while. I still can't tell you exactly what synthpop is, at its simplest, it's pop music played primarily on synthesizers. To me, though, synthpop primarily translates to musical memories of the 1980s, and I've never made a secret of my love for all things 80s, especially the music.
Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark had a long and successful career, but they achieved mega-success with only one song. If You Leave, from the soundtrack of that seminal 80s film Pretty in Pink, towers over the musical landscape of the 1980s. If I had to pick one tune that represented the decade of my youth, I would probably choose If You Leave. I'm still perplexed why the song never rose above #4 on the US charts. I originally bought this CD because of that one awesome song, and this probably explains why I didn't really "get" this music at the time, especially since a majority of the tracks date back to the group's earlier years. OMD first appeared on the music scene in 1979 with the song Electricity, a catchy but rather ephemeral track that managed to win them a recording contract. Their early recordings are hard for me to classify; I believe Enola Gay made the top ten in the UK in 1980, but this song always seems to hang around in my head to the point of being annoying after I listen to it. Tracks such as Joan of Arc and Maid of Orleans demonstrate the growing musical maturity of the group, though.
OMD began to hit their stride with the release of the album Junk Culture in 1984. Tesla Girls, in particular, is a much tighter, certainly much more energetic song from the somewhat experimental products that had come before. This song almost demands to be danced to (but not by me, of course) and had what earlier tracks did not - pop appeal. Locomotion has a more pop-oriented sound, as well, but its good points are all but nullified by the constant repetition of a certain silly phrase. Talking Loud and Clear, a third track from Junk Culture, also suffers from repetition and a stultifying level of musical restraint. The group's pop-oriented synthpop sound continued with the album Crush in 1985, with OMD finally finding significant success in America with the single So in Love. Secret taps into the kind of teenaged lovesickness that fueled much of the best of 80s music; back then, a crush could actually be an innocent albeit heart-wrenching thing that basically defined adolescence. For the first time, OMD was beginning to sound (to me, anyway) like the group that would go on to record the era-defining song If You Leave.
A defining sense of melancholy seemed to characterize all of OMD's music, from weighty songs such as Forever Live and Die to pop-oriented tracks such as the excellent Dreaming. This collection's final two tracks, 12" versions of We Love You and La Femme Accident, close things out with great energy, but the songs you take away from this album are those more poignant offerings from the mid-80s, great tracks such as So in Love and If You Leave. Listening to this album now, I think I appreciate the music much more than I did all those years ago. OMD may not have hit the charts all that often, but theirs is a typically 80s sound that helped define the decade and did much to shape the development of synthpop. Needless to say, I am no longer inclined to look upon this CD as in any way disposable."
GRACEFUL AND ELEGANT SOUND SCULPTURES
Pieter | Johannesburg | 05/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There's not much difference between OMD's Best Of and their Singles collection. All the real classics like Maid Of Orleans, Joan Of Arc, Electricity, Souvenir and Tesla Girls appear on both and those few tracks that are different are not their best. So if you prefer We Love You, La Femme Accident and Genetic Engineering to Sailing On The Seven Seas, Dream Of Me and Walking On The Milky Way, go for this one! You will still get their more experimental first outings like Electricity plus their spacey, magnificent later work from Architecture And Morality. OMD was one of a slew of original UK synth-duo's that emerged in the early 1980s, along with Yazoo, Eurythmics and Soft Cell. OMD's mark of distinction is their elegant, almost classical structures and mournful moods, best demonstrated by Joan Of Arc and Maid Of Orleans. They were the architects of some truly remarkable and timeless sonic sculptures."
H3@+h | VT | 03/19/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I never thought much of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark until I got this collection. Now I think quite alot of them. This disc is simply a must for fans of early 80's music, specifically the synth/pop genre. I enjoy every track here, but there are a number of them that really stand out. "Enola Gay" was a big hit, and can be found on many an 80's compilation. "Souvenir" is a simple and almost moving song that I enjoy. "So In Love" was a nice surprise to me, as I've always liked it alot, but didn't know it was an OMD song until now. Then there's possibly their biggest hit "If You Leave", which was on the great "Pretty In Pink" soundtrack. However, to me the best thing on here is easily "Forever Live And Die". That song is just one of the magic 80's hits for me, with a perfect beginning, and overall one of the coolest of the decade. The rest is still a pleasure, and a welcome addition to my CD stack."