Dazzle Ships

Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark

Virgin, 1983


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


You might think you know all there is to know about the synth-pop act OMD, but you ain’t heard nothing until you’ve listened to their concept album, Dazzle Ships. Right from the very first song “Genetic Engineering,” you get the impression that Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys are trying so hard to get it just right and have this album be their masterpiece. With the help of producer Rhett Davies, they almost succeed. It certainly is unlike anything else from the early ‘80s, especially when you take the several brief, and often spoken, interludes that help to bridge the songs together. This type of formula would later be duplicated by Janet Jackson, who insisted in putting interludes and snippets of dialogue on virtually every one of her albums.

The overall theme of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Dazzle Ships is how industry influences (and sometimes dominates) much of humanity. Throughout this densely packed affair, we hear radio transmissions, talking computers and even colliding foreign languages announcing the time of day.  Intent of marketing the album as a whole, there weren’t any hit singles marketed to radio stations, so promoting the album proved to be a lesson in futility. Only by word of mouth (especially among the British) and critical reviews such as this would the public be let in on the secret that this was one album worth checking out. The best tracks, and the ones that should have been hits, are the two most upbeat ones, “Telegraph” and “Radio Waves.” In between such high points, the album is largely hit and miss, weighed down at times by too many ballads.

Still, Dazzle Ships succeeds because it is such a radical departure from OMD’s previous work. The otherwise low-key duo are really busting loose here, singing their hearts out on many of the tunes. The slow songs, particularly “International” and “Of All The Things We’ve Made” do add some emotional depth to the sterile tone of the album, though the music tends to be on the repetitive side and could use a little more variation in melody. That is a minor quibble, however, when considering the overall effect of the record as a whole. It is, by far, the most engaging and interesting thing OMD has ever done, though from what I hear, their live shows are also not to be missed.

Speaking of which, it was recently announced that OMD has reformed to do a farewell tour of sorts in the UK. That will surely be a sell-out, which would make them reconsider their previous intention to call it a day. They managed to release ten albums from 1980 to 1996, though the last few were without the participation of Paul Humphreys. How great will it be for all the OMD purists out there to see Paul and Andy reunite after all this time? I’m just bummed I won’t be able to witness such a momentous event because I’m stuck out here in hip-hop land on the other side of the Atlantic. Oh well, at least I’ll always have my Dazzle Ships. I just wish one would come and take me away.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2008 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Virgin, and is used for informational purposes only.