October 7, 2010

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Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, History of Modern
Bright Antenna/Warner Brothers, Sept. 28

One handy acid test for this, the first album from OMD proper in 14 years, is to check if they’ve rolled with the changes the way Pet Shop Boys have, and the shortest answer is just barely, if that. They obviously reckon their listener base still has expendable income, which would be true if Gen X didn’t have to guard every cent of their livelihood nowadays to feed their kids in case the free-falling economy gets any worse. Chalk some of their cultural tone-deafness up to having a back-story nothing like PSB’s; the OMD saga is loaded with infighting so bloody that until recently there were more original band-members in Listening Pool (three) than in OMD itself (singer Andy McCluskey solely). Their hands-down biggest hit was the Pretty In Pink-famed “If You Leave,” and they gleefully tap that well again for album opener “New Babies New Toys,” which could easily pass as an epithet-laden “If You Leave” remix by an EBM band. Matter of fact, scary-close variations on the “If You Leave” melody pop up often, making me wonder if McCluskey is thinking about some sort of Mamma Mia-like Pretty In Pink musical, God forbid. There’s a certain level of Depeche Mode darkness (“History of Modern Part II,” etc.) that feels as perfunctory as the turntablist fig leaf proffered to today’s kids in “Sometimes,” but mainly it’s an upbeat, brand-new-morning vibe, as though we still live in a world where Andie’s self-made prom dress could be the envy of the Chanel-bamming prom queen. B —Eric W. Saeger