Monday, August 21, 2006

Dazzle Ships

When Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released the decidedly leftfield "Dazzle Ships" in 1983, it was met with varying degrees of reception, from curious fascination to cautious acceptance to outright hostility. Granted, the twelve songs on "Dazzle Ships" were a far cry indeed from their erstwhile thoughtfully constructed, pristine synth-pop, i.e. accepted standards like "Electricity", "Enola Gay", "Souvenir" and "Joan of Arc". After all, material like musique concrete montages, found-sound samples, time-zone service recordings and random short-wave radio transmission snippets do not exactly constitute studio techniques normally associated with the Liverpudlians.

But make no mistake, "Dazzle Ships" is a concept album that is far ahead of its time, however underrated it might still be. The most striking thing about "Dazzle Ships" is how it seamlessly blends the band's newfound sense of experimentalism with the album's thematic visions of a Huxley-influenced society, Cold War tensions, burgeoning computer usage and cloning technology. Wholly sample-constituted tracks like "Radio Prague", "ABC Auto-Industry", "This Is Helena" and "Time Zones" brilliantly display the sense of alienation and loss of self in a dystopian environment, while other more accessible songs like "International", "Genetic Engineering", "Telegraph" and "Of All the Things We've Made" resurrect the O.M.D. popcraft of yore, while lyrically addressing the core premises of the record.

Engrossing from start to finish, and one of the most under-appreciated gems in the band's oeuvre.


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