Here’s a local one, OMD Architecture & Morality from 1981, all Wirral born and bred – the band formed and lived just a couple of miles from here. I was given this LP in 2010 by a friend who was getting rid of his records*, in perfect condition with the cut-out Peter Saville modernist sleeve, all form and sharp lines. Now I remember OMD as a synth pop group when I was a spotty youth and that’s about it, so I was interested in hearing what their earlier stuff sounded like, to see if there was anything less-polished more experimental in the mix.
And there is. A bit.
Andy McCluskey has said that his life changed for ever the night he saw Kraftwerk play at the Liverpool Empire and basically Architecture & Morality captures these Wirralites being totally in thrall to Kraftwerk but with their own pop sensibilities starting to peek out from under the keys. It’s an album that a lot of learned folk rave about but for me only flowers a few times over.
I really rather like the sheer cussedness not only of writing two tracks about Joan of Arc but a) putting them both on the LP b) sequencing them next to each other and c) releasing them both as singles; to avoid total record company meltdown they allowed the second one to carry the subtitle ‘Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)’, but they didn’t want to. Musically my money goes with plain old ‘Joan Of Arc’, it’s clever stuff, inherently slightly silly and sung with real passion, leaving the titular martyr in doubt of his feelings**:
Now listen Joan of Arc
All you gotta do
Say the right words and I’ll be coming through
Hold you in my arms and take you right away
The flailing guitar in opener ‘The New Stone Age’ is an interesting one for me, coupled with a very modern-sounding beat it verges on the Cure and that Indie wing, not at all what I was expecting until the synths swoop down to carry us home. It’s frantic, a bit unkempt (very much unlike the band) and comes on a little like a less-futuristic Tubeway Army. Whilst the next two tracks test my stately synth-pop tolerance to its limits, I love the slow atmospheric almost-instrumental ‘Sealand’ – named after a flat, watery, low-skied, fairly depressing area a couple of miles from here, at the end of the Wirral. It sees the band channelling some of that precious sadness of Kraftwerk’s Radio-Activity, albeit with a pulse that’s entirely OMD’s own. It carries real emotional weight, again copping that Kraftwerk trick of wringing feeling from the diodes somehow, it lights up the LP for me, in a gloomy non-light emitting fashion, that is.
The rest of Architecture & Morality is a bit less stellar and whilst closer ‘The Beginning & The End’ has some neat touches, by that point the album as a whole has outstayed its’ welcome on my turntable – it doesn’t entertain, enrage or effect me and I find myself craving a full-fat, extra-caffeinated dirty guitar solo with extra fries and a side order of steaming decadence by the end. It ends up sounding a little under-powered to me, a little too arch, a little too fragile; I am willing of course to accept that’s more a reflection of my emotional and intellectual arrested development, than any truly valid criticism of OMD. I’m 43, the fact that it doesn’t rock shouldn’t really be an issue.
The music here is less studied and sculpted than the sleeve would have you believe but I will stick to the three best tracks here at the expense of the album as a whole, moping around ‘Sealand’ occasionally when I need that sad space.
Now talking about the sleeve I have decided that, yes it may be a bit of an early 80’s British design classic – but come on guys you need my help here! A 1537 cover redesign will help you appeal to a far wider demographic. I know you named your LP after a book, but still, get with the programme dudes! Architecture? fine, I get that, people like cool buildings – that can be sexy; but Morality? where’s the wild-eyed rebellion in that? the fun?
1537 Cover Design Studios are proud to present our sexed-up reimagining of your LP cover; proudly putting the OMG back into OMD. Welcome to Architecture & Immorality. Featuring a classic black and yellow colour scheme, a bit of a spacey futuristic font and silhouettes of people who are probably about to, umm, get funky in a vaguely seedy manner AND a genuine architectural blueprint of a house – if this doesn’t pump up your sales and hit your target demographics from Arizona to Mozambique I really don’t know what will.
PS – for my money you simply cannot beat 1980’s brilliant ‘Enola Gay’, smart-arsed and wonderful – let’s all dance in a jerky manner!
PPS – for those of you not in the know, the Wirral Peninsula is the sticky out bit of land underneath Liverpool and next to Wales.
*OMFG!!! I know, I know.
**Beavis, did he just say ‘titular’? (snork, snork, snarf)