By: Brad Lewis on April 24, 2013
Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark’s big hits are probably more cure than blessing at this point. Granted the royalties and residual interest off of “If You Leave” is arguably the only reason why OMD still exists in any form 30 years on. Yet, in spite of constant rotation on those all 80’s weekend marathons every third radio station seems to have, OMD remains marginalized within MTV era one-hit wonder ghetto. It is understandable on one level, 80’s pop was notoriously singles based. Not a lot of undiscovered genius in that dog pile. But then again it is not like Kajagoogoo was making records as strong as Junk Culture.
This, their fifth album, is a minor departure from their previous sound. Earlier albums focused more on experimentation over pop. Hardly a bad thing, Architecture & Morality in particular has a stunning mix of electro-minimalism and subtle pop hooks. However it was a sound that would have left the band in cult purgatory. Ironically that would probably afford the band a more dedicated fan base, everyone loves a good cult mystery, but no one is putting OMD in the corner.
Junk Culture opens up their sound by adding depth and texture. The cold sparse electro is augmented by more organic instrumentation to create a lush dense sound. It’s not so much the sound is changed, everything that worked about the sound is still in place, Junk Culture simply opens it up. Opening track, and single, “Tesla Girls” is the illustration of OMD’s artistic growth. The song, and album, begins with metronomic synth and bass tones that would not be out of place on their other albums. But then about forty seconds in the new OMD explodes through the song. As the beat drops into the background piano lines create a more sustained melody. The affect is akin to Dorothy opening the door to Technicolor Oz as the claustrophobia of the insistent beat blossoms into a heavily layered wall of sound.
The adjustment worked as Junk Culture ended up producing three minor hits (“Tesla Girls”, “Locomotion”, and “Talking Loud and Clear”). It took a couple more years, and John Hughes pimping “If You Leave” in Pretty In Pink, for OMD for fully break through, but it’s Junk Culture that makes them worthy of rediscovery.