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.

OMD Architecture Morality 02

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

OMD Architecture Morality 03
Okay, so I hot-rodded the cover a bit!

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.

OMD Architecture Morality 04

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.

OMD Architecture Morality 01

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.

 OMD Architecture Immorality

Job done.

505 Down.

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)

29 thoughts on “OMG OMD

  1. I know absolutely nothing about this one. Know very little about OMD (other than a few songs) and was pretty surprised to find that they’ve been on the go that long.

  2. You can tell, from my first two (completely sarcastic) comments that I know nothing about this release except the name of the band. Good on you for giving it a spin! And dammit that reworked album art is creepy make it stop.

    Also why in hell was the dude giving away his records? Drug money? Pay for an operation? Skipping the country? Hookers? What would drive a man to DO that?

  3. I’m most impressed that Michael Douglas played keyboards on this record, what a coup for the band! Still, it was three years before Romancing The Stone, so a guy’s gotta work.

  4. An honest and thoughtful review – enjoyed it. As I rather like austere, cold or just plain dreary music, I’m very fond of this album, though I agree the word ‘precious’ keeps coming back like a ring of power. I like ‘Dazzle Ships’ and ‘Organisation’ too. The former a bit more quirky, the latter a bit more poppy.

    As for the cover, I’ll stick to my original if you don’t mind.

    As Allan Partridge famously observed, “Architecture and Morality. Two different but equally hot potatoes”.

    1. Thank you – still think my cover is better though! Come on, you can’t beat a yellow and black colour scheme.

      I hope I didn’t sound too sniffy about it, there is some really excellent music in here. Sealand esp.

      1. Ah, but I’m a sucker for die-cut covers (also stand-ups, multi-folds… all the twicks of the twade). Now if your cover had a boudoir door that opened and closed, or a fold-back duvet revealing…

  5. A favorite of mine. As a matter of fact, each album up to Dazzle Ships (their “OK Computer”, or maybe “Kid A”) is a classic as far as my ears are concerned. I prefer their second album (Organisation–google the Kraftwerk reference to that title) to this, which I always thought a tad—just a tad, mind–overrated. Excellent post, as always, and wonderful cover manipulations…as always!

    1. Thanks Ian – apart from this one, I only own a couple of singles.

      They did paint a ship in Liverpool in dazzle ships camouflage last year as an artistic thing and a bit of a tribute, I think. very gaudy.

      Thank you – I firmly believe I should be pulling $millions at a record company due to my cover skillz!

  6. I was going to ask if “Enola Gay” was on this one. I love that song.

    I’ve been interested in checking out OMDs older stuff, pre-John Hughes fame. This album sound right up my alley, possibly.

    Now, about that reimagined album cover….I’ll take ten!!

    1. I love Enola Gay too – real synth genius marrying the subject matter with a jaunty tune.

      Some of this is really excellent, especially ‘Sealand’ and some leaves me a little cold – but, as I said, that’s probably more my fault than OMD’s.

      Yes – I’ve cracked that elusive Mid-West demographic! It’s the house wasn’t it?

      1. Totally the house, as well as the creepy dude standing in the doorway. Just like the creepy uncle everyone knew but never talked about. Very Midwest-ish.

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