Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Organisation

We’ve reviewed a lot of OMD on this blog this year, but this seems an entirely worthwhile anniversary to celebrate – it’s 35 years this week since they unleashed their second album Organisation.

It starts with a cracker – if you had to choose one OMD song to define their career, it would probably be Enola Gay, mainly just because it’s brilliant. The lyrics are eccentric to say the least, but somehow the riff captures something extremely special, and you’re transported back to 1980 every time.

2nd Thought grabs you a little less, but is still great. Clearly after the raw charm of their debut Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (also 1980) they spent a lot of time polishing and honing their sound. Well, not a huge amount of time actually – it was just eight months earlier that they were unleashing the first album. But even so, this has a much more mature, evolved sound.

VCL XI is good too, although it relies perhaps a little too much on its rhythmic elements. It’s catchy, but could quite easily be annoying too, so could maybe have benefitted from a little selective editing. Then comes Motion and Heart, famously nearly the second single (Enola Gay was the only one in the end), a bizarre but pleasant electro-swing piece. It’s difficult to see how this could ever have come out as a single, but on the album it’s definitely up there among the best this album has to offer.

Side A closes with Statues, a pleasant, gentler song. It isn’t difficult to see why they struggled at the time to find a second single, as the majority of songs on this album are gentler or weirder in some way, but while it lacks the raw charm of the debut, it’s still a very good release.

Then Side B opens with The Misunderstanding, which after a very dark and grimy introduction eventually gains the beginnings of another Enola Gay riff. That doesn’t really end up going anywhere unfortunately, as it gets overshadowed by one of Andy McCluskey‘s more extravagant vocal performances and an enormous snare drum. It’s nice, but it does make you wonder slightly whether it was something they had overlooked for the first album.

The More I See You shows some promise too, but ultimately doesn’t do an awful lot either, and this is sadly the general theme of the second half of Organisation. Enola Gay may have been an exquisite opener, but it seems a long time ago now. Penultimate track Promise does little to pick things up either – as with everything else here, it’s perfectly nice, but just a little bit disappointing.

Bringing proceedings to a close is the softer and gentler Stanlow, full of deep arpeggiated synths and soft vocals. It has a great atmosphere and closes the album nicely, but you can’t help but feel a little bit let down on the whole – the previous release was so good, and Enola Gay was so promising and iconic, and then everything else just seems a little drab by comparison.

Even so, Organisation is a competent second album, and one which helped cement OMD‘s place in history.

The essential version of Organisation is the 2003 remaster, still available here. Make sure it doesn’t have copy protection – some copies do.

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