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Music review: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Roundhouse, London


Ben Walsh
Tuesday 07 May 2013 10:28 BST
Orchestral Manoeuvres performing at Coachella 2013
Orchestral Manoeuvres performing at Coachella 2013 (Getty Images)

“If you don't know it, just dance,” Andy McCluskey teases us before 1984's “Tesla Girls”, and the trim singer dances like an eager 18-30 holiday rep, pulling shapes, stretching out his arms and gyrating like an embarrassing, sozzled uncle at a wedding.

“You're still here after six songs from the new album,” the 53-year-old frontman quips, and the new material, from OMD's latest synth-pop gem English Electric, blends in seamlessly with the hits. And you forget just how many exquisite pop songs the 1980s new-wave act had.

The four-piece, who formed in 1978 and produced their masterpiece Architecture and Morality in 1981, might not attract the kudos of Depeche Mode, Joy Division and New Order, but they were certainly as significant, influencing the likes of Pet Shop Boys and Erasure. In fact, Erasure's personable Andy Bell sits next to me here, confessing he “always cries” listening to the lush, enigmatic “Souvenir”, on which McCluskey laments “My intention, ask my opinion/ But no excuse, my feelings still remain”.

The UK's answer to krautrockers Kraftwerk and Neu were always more unusual and conceptual than they were given credit for, writing songs about the Boeing-29 Superfortress that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima “(”Enola Gay“), the 15th-century French heroine Joan of Arc (”Maid of Orleans“) and solar power (”Electricity“). All three tracks are highlights tonight, sounding crisp and eternal, with McCluskey's voice in pristine condition.

“This song made us incredibly wealthy,” boasts McCluskey before “If You Leave” (with the gorgeous pop lyric “We always had time on our side/ And now it's fading fast”), the song that graces the final scenes of 1986's Pretty in Pink.

Of the new material, the pick of the bunch are the mournful “Metroland” (on which McCluskey bemoans “Today is yesterday/ Everyday in Metroland”) and “Night Cafe”, two tracks that wouldn't feel out of place on 1984's Junk Culture.

However, they can't compete with the bombardment of 1980s gems - “Talking Loud and Clear”, “Locomotion”, “(Forever) Live and Die” and the swirling Teutonic beauty of “Messages” from their debut record. By the finale and the smile-inducing “Electricity” the entire Roundhouse crowd are pulling awkward shapes like McCluskey and hollering “Our one source of energy/ Electricity”.

Five stars? Well, if you're fond of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, you really couldn't have ask for anything more from them. Joyous.

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