Living with…Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark…for a week

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Andy McCluskey – King of the Dad Dancers

I first saw Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (henceforth known as OMD) in October ’86 at the now dearly departed Birmingham Odeon New Street.  I’d liked their music for a few years but that night I fell in love.  With the energy that is OMD live and the dancing of Andy McCluskey, King of the Dad Dancers.  That night, we all agreed he had perfected the art of dancing like a dad, and twenty something years on he is still bopping with that same energy, if a little more breathless at the end of a song.

For the proof, a 2006 performance of Sailing on the Seven Seas complete with orchestra and backing singers who all join him in the unique ritual – just admire the moves!

So what is Dad Dancing?  One definition is “the making of embarrassing flamboyant dance moves to pop music by middle-aged men”.  Bearing in mind that Andy McCluskey would have been far from middle-aged when he started his unique style, it’s fair to say he was ahead of his time.  Or at least ahead of his age.  Rolling Stone describes his dancing as “a walking encyclopedia of New Wave dance moves.”

Now I have an 11 year old daughter it’s fair to say that I fall in this ’embarrassing’ category although my flamboyance is limited to the confines of my kitchen and living room, improving in my eyes at least after that 6 o’clock glass of beer.  It was officially confirmed to me this week that I am an ’embarrassment’ particularly in demonstating the McCluskey to the backdrop of Maid of Orleans.  And no I was never ever to do a dad daughter dance routine.  Ever.

Shame, because the dancing is only going to get more embarrassing.

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English Electric (2013) and Messages: Greatest Hits (2008)

The launch of a new OMD album seems an excellent opportunity to spend another week with the group.  I say another, because at least twice a year for the last 20+ years I’ve got the OMD itch and the cassettes, albums, CDs and more latterly MP3 files have been brought out for an intense blast of electro-pop.  This is regardless of a chequered history of music over those years.

I think it’s fair to say that there are few classic OMD albums – Architecture and Morality is the one obvious candidate – and probably against the judgement of everyone else I’ve always had a soft spot for the more commercial 1985’s Crush.  But every album has had at least one or two compulsive hits that when strung together over the years make a great collection.  For that collection try Messages, the most up-to-date and best gathering of OMD’s greatest.

eeAnd what of English Electric?  I much prefer it to their last return History of Modern.  It seems to be going back to the spirit of their earlier works – combining the purity of the synth sound with a demi-melancholic vocal tone.  But also preparing to experiment in the style of Kraftwerk and not just do pop  They even try to recreate their theme of recreating historical moments with one of the better numbers Helen of Troy

Helen of Troy, Is that your name?
Stupid girl, Stupid game
Helen of Troy, Far away
Are you happy now? There to stay

After Joan of Arc, does this all sound a bit familiar?

Just to embarrass aforementioned 11 year old further here is a recent mindmap that she concocted of the Trojan wars for a school project.  For those who don’t know the story, hope it helps.

the trojan war

And Dresden, a song about the WWII bombing of a city?  Enola Gay again in sound and theme.  But why do we care?  It’s still that driving synth sound, and there are still musical surprises hidden there.

So English Electric is definitely worth a visit for those who loved that pure sound you’d expect from McCluskey and Humphries with also that added bit of quirkiness.  Is this the future? Or now?

I want a house, and a car, and a robot wife
I want 2 kids, and the yard, and the perfect life
I want a house, and a car, and a robot wife
I want 2 kids, and the yard, and the perfect life

See you in six months boys.

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