A few weeks ago, I revisited OMD‘s Crush (1985), and found it wasn’t nearly as bad as I remembered. Another album which I’d always dismissed, perhaps unfairly, was the one which came before it, 1984’s Junk Culture. It was genuinely surprising to me when Andy McCluskey appeared on the radio earlier this year to announce a new deluxe reissue, as I’d genuinely assumed it needed to be forgotten about. But maybe I was wrong.
It opens with Junk Culture, a nondescript instrumental which is nice, but somehow seems a little pointless. It bobs along for four minutes or so, and it would be easy to think you might have accidentally picked up the b-side to one of their singles.
Then comes Tesla Girls, which jumps unapologetically between being a very silly instrumental and being a classic OMD track. The combination, although probably very iconic and era-defining, and definitely memorable, really isn’t especially good unfortunately.
The lead single Locomotion is next. It’s particularly cheesy, daft, and meaningless, but it does have a certain charm if you try to put yourself in a 1984 mindset. This was the album’s one sizeable hit single, and I think that’s a fair legacy for it.
The rest of Side 1 is totally forgettable – Apollo feels a little bit as though they’re trying to write a song just for the sake of it, and fourth single Never Turn Away has a nice rippling synth effect towards the end, but is otherwise completely forgettable. There’s nothing really bad here, and it is at least varied, but neither does there seem to be anything to call out as particularly special.
Side 2 brings us Love and Violence, which seems to be hiding a reasonably good song amidst some cacophonous backing sounds. Hard Day is nice, but ultimately a little dull. All Wrapped Up is nearly a nice party song, but it still feels a little bit as though I haven’t been invited to the party.
Maybe this is the theme of Junk Culture – maybe it’s just me who isn’t really understanding what’s going on here. It would be impossible to argue that it’s a bad album, by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m really not finding much to enjoy here – and that includes the bizarre blurry flower cover image. Onwards we go with White Trash, with mainly lots of chanting of “trash,” broken up with some silly and/or cheesy noises.
After all of that, second single Talking Loud and Clear sounds fantastic – probably unfairly so, actually, because when you listen to their greatest hits albums, it seems to pale into insignificance among the likes of Electricity, Messages, Walking on the Milky Way, and so-on. But on Junk Culture, Talking Loud and Clear is definitely one of the highlights.
You can disagree if you like – you probably do – but if so, please explain what it is I’m missing here. I may not have been listening to much music in 1984, and that would be a valid reason for what’s going on, but surely there must be something else? Or is Junk Culture just not very good?
You can find the new reissue of Junk Culture with a bonus disc of extra goodies here.