Synth pop pioneers OMD (Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark) — best known in the States for “If You Leave,” the pop smash from John Hughes’ film Pretty in Pink — are back with their classic lineup and History of Modern (out Sept. 28), the band’s first album in 14 years, and first with their classic lineup in 24 years. Hear the album’s leadoff track, “New Babies: New Toys,” below!
LISTEN: OMD, “New Babies: New Toys”
The song, replete with a trademark, shimmering OMD synth hook, finds the older, wiser band musing on the current state of the music industry — a fitting salvo as Track 1 on their comeback album. “Sold a dream but you got no joy,” frontman Andy McCluskey coos in the chorus, “It’s better with the girls but it’s bigger with the boys.”
“It’s about the machinery of the music industry and all these willing volunteers who get themselves up on to X Factor and Pop Idol [England’s version of American Idol] and have Simon Cowell inflict them upon us and upon themselves,” McCluskey tells SPIN.com. “Particularly in England — Simon Cowell is singlehandedly responsible for some of the most fucking awful music in the last 15 years that’s been inflicted on the entire planet.”
But while McCluskey has plenty of rage for the pop music scene, he’s been able to mend fences within his own band to make this record possible, starting with the decision in 2005 to call up his original OMD cohort, keyboardist/vocalist Paul Humphreys, who quit the band in 1989, and see if he’d be into reforming the band for a TV gig they’d been offered.
“I don’t even really know why, but finally I kind of cracked and phoned up Paul and the other guys and said, ‘Listen, do you want to do a TV show in Germany?'” McCluskey recalls. “I think the general consensus was that we wanted to get away from our wives and children so we agreed to do it.”
Everything felt just right from the start once the classic, early ’80s lineup (which also includes multi-instrumentalist Martin Cooper and drummer Malcolm Holmes) got in a room together, McCluskey says: “The nearest thing I can equate it to was like riding a bicycle, you know? We’d spent so much time together — 24/7 — throughout the ’80s that, even after 16 years of hardly seeing each other, back together again, it was like we’d never been apart. Except for the fact that now, we weren’t sick to death of the sight of each other.”
The band was also encouraged by the past decade’s embrace of synth pop and electro. “It was nice to finally get some credit for what we trying to do all those years ago,” McCluskey says. “Some of these people, who are young enough to be our kids, who have adopted some of the electro sounds and ideas — we like them a lot.”
And who specifically? “I think Robyn from Sweden has developed a very distinctive and personal style that is still very electronic,” says McCluskey. “As you soon as you hear her singing, you know that’s Robyn. And while I sometimes love her and sometimes hate her — Lady Gaga. ‘Pokerface’ and ‘Bad Romance’ are fucking great electro songs.”
Now, as History of Modern arrives, OMD are planning their first North American shows since 1991, with New York and Toronto emerging as candidates for gigs in early October. The band is also in talks to play next April’s Coachella festival in California.
And while OMD’s return to the States conjures a few bad memories — “Sometimes we joke that trying to break America ended up breaking us,” McCluskey says, referring to the original lineup’s implosion in the late ’80s — it’s still a very happy time for OMD.
“It’s quite wonderful at the age of 51, to be able to make a new record and be excited and proud of it,” he gushes. “I’m lovin’ it.”
Listen to “New Babies: New Toys” and tell us what you think in the comments.