They’re back, after 14 years! And they sound like they’re still poised for Top of the Pops! I am not sure if that’s a good thing (or sound). Is OMD still using the same synthesizers? Andy McCluskey sings with the same voice as when he crooned Enola Gay into my ear via my Walkman II. I now see myself at the bicycle shed at school, unwilling to go home although classes were over. Elsewhere, my school mates were listing to Barbara Streisand’s Woman In Love. I did not know why. The diva thing was lost on me then.
This is clearly for the nostalgia joy ride. Yes, some of us, prompted by fashion’s constant return to the past, do pine for the sound of Eighties, but do we really want it to be so utterly reminiscent of that era? You can cast a backward glance, but don’t you wish to look forward too? While the new songs are clearly retro-tinged, they have more in common with 1986’s The Pacific Age (and later albums) than earlier records such as the still-issued Organisation. The just-released first single, If You Want It, accompanied by an uninspired video, employs so many musical, melodic and vocal styling associated with 1996’s Universal that I am grateful Depeche Mode, the other great Brit synth-pop band, has rightly abandoned the predictable to sound present-day.
As if to be certain we potential buyers and downloaders do not miss its nostalgia value, the album’s cover is designed by the band’s early collaborator Peter Saville. I should say I am also a huge fan of Mr Saville and the work he did for Factory Records, in particular, New Order’s albums, but the cover for History of Modern fails to thrill even if it could bring on a knowing smile. With its orange background, you’d think this is a tribute to OMD’s debut 1980 album. Sadly, there’s no Electricity.
History of Modern will be out on 20 September in the UK. Thailand? Your guess is as good as mine.