Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Dazzle Ships

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark‘s career had barely started thirty-five years ago, but they already had four albums under their belt. The most recent, Dazzle Ships, again owed much to their heroes Kraftwerk, but this time it was more overt than ever.

In a clear attempt to drop the shackles of commercialism, it opens with Radio Prague, an interval signal lifted directly from the radio station of the same name. I’d be interested to know how they felt about it. We then get the first single from the album, Genetic Engineering, the second and most prominent of the twelve tracks, very clearly mimicking the structure of the Radio-Aktivität album. That’s not the limit of the homage – Genetic Engineering is good, but does sound at times a little like a bad Kraftwerk rip-off. But let’s keep this civil – it’s a competent single, even if not perhaps the most commercial – it was even missed off the 1998 singles collection.

OMD were trying to be experimental, although at the same time they do owe a lot to their heroes Kraftwerk on this album. ABC Auto-Industry is built around samples and found sounds, and is a clear attempt to do something very different, but frankly it’s awful at best.

Telegraph was the second single, not quite making the top forty in April 1983. It’s a good song, probably as commercial as anything on here, but it certainly doesn’t sound as advanced as anything else the group had released recently – it might have even fitted well on the debut album.

After some of the earlier shorter tracks, This is Helena is a vast improvement, and for the first time does seem to do justice to the stark communist radio theme of this album. International is pretty pleasant too, with its throbbing bass sounds, although the vocal performance is off-putting to say the least.

Half way through the album, and this might actually be one of OMD‘s most coherent releases to date – the debut is fun but naïve, the second has Enola Gay on it and little else, and the third is mainly about Joan of Arc, for reasons that are unlikely to ever become clear.

Side two opens with the cryptic Dazzle Ships (Parts II, III and VII), which would have been a good b-side on a single and just about works here. Then The Romance of the Telescope is a nice piece that drones along pleasantly for a bit. This is definitely the low-point of the album – there’s nothing particularly wrong with Silent Running either, but it doesn’t exactly stand out from the crowd.

Radio Waves features some creative use of random synth signals and off-beat drumming, but generally seems to work, particularly when the main song starts up about a minute in. Time Zones is nice, although it’s basically a direct imitation of Kraftwerk‘s Nachrichten. And then we’re on to Of All the Things We’ve Made already, the final track. Previously released in different form a year or so earlier, on the b-side to Maid of Orleans (that one was about Joan of Arc, in case you were wondering), it might even be the best track on here. Admittedly, the drums sound a bit moronic, and the flanged guitar that strums the same key through pretty much the entire track, but it’s got a compelling atmosphere which actually fits here rather well.

So as with all OMD albums, Dazzle Ships has its ups and downs, and it was definitely widely hated at the time, but it’s actually a pretty good album, particularly if you’re as much of a fan of Radio-Aktivität as they are. What it doesn’t have is anything as good as Enola Gay, but you would need to wait another couple of albums for them to regain that form.

The 2008 remaster of Dazzle Ships is probably the essential version if you want to try for yourself.


Stowaway Awards 2018

After all the excitement of previous years, I’ve decided to tone down the Stowaway Awards a little this year, with just six categories. Here they are, with the full lists of nominees!

Best Track


  • Depeche Mode – Where’s the Revolution
  • Erasure – Be Careful What You Wish for!
  • Gary Numan – My Name is Ruin
  • Goldfrapp – Become the One
  • Kraftwerk – Radioaktivität
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – As We Open, So We Close
  • Pet Shop Boys – Reunion
  • Saint Etienne – Whyteleaf
  • Sparks – Scandinavian Design
  • Yazoo – Only You

We announced the winner already – it’s Depeche Mode.

Best Album


  • Depeche Mode – Spirit
  • Erasure – World Be Gone
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury
  • Saint Etienne – Home Counties
  • Sparks – Hippopotamus

The winner is Depeche Mode.

Best Reissue / Compilation


  • Liza Minnelli – Results
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury: B Sides & Bonus Material
  • Pet Shop Boys – Nightlife
  • Pet Shop Boys – Release
  • Pet Shop Boys – Yes

The winner is Pet Shop Boys, for Release.

Best Artist


  • Depeche Mode
  • Erasure
  • Goldfrapp
  • Saint Etienne
  • Sparks

This year’s winner is Sparks.

Best Live Act


  • Jean-Michel Jarre
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • múm

The winner is Jean-Michel Jarre.

Outstanding Contribution


  • David Bowie
  • Vince Clarke
  • The Future Sound of London
  • Leftfield
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

The winner: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

Grammy Awards 2018

I never really have enough patience to look into the Grammy Awards in too much detail – there are just way too many of them. But it’s always worth a quick skim, particularly this year it seems. So here are some headlines.

Best Dance Recording went to LCD Soundsystem this year for the irritatingly-spelt Tonite, beating Gorillaz‘s Andromeda, and both were also nominated for Best Alternative Music Album for American Dream and Humanz respectively, but lost out to The National.

One of my favourite awards, Best New Age Album this year overlooked a strong nominee for Brian Eno with Reflection and went with Peter Kater instead for Dancing on WaterBest Dance/Electronic Album surprisingly went to Kraftwerk for the sublime box set 3-D The Catalogue over Bonobo‘s Migration.

In a pleasant surprise, Dennis White won Best Remixed Recording for his Latroit Remix of Depeche Mode‘s You Move. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds got a couple of nominations, one in the Best Music Film category for One More Time with Feeling, and once in the Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package category for the work of the art direction on their singles compilation Lovely Creatures, but failed to win in the end. Roger Waters suffered the same fate for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.

That’s all I’ve got. There’s a more comprehensive list of winners and nominees on the Billboard website.

Albums chart of the year 2017

It’s been a great year for reissues, so it’s no surprise to see a few on the 2017 top twenty. Here’s the full list:

  1. Depeche Mode – Spirit
  2. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène 3 [number 21 in 2016]
  3. Saint Etienne – Home Counties
  4. David Bowie – Legacy [number 27 in 2016]
  5. Kraftwerk – 3-D Der Katalog
  6. Pet Shop Boys – Release [released in 2002]
  7. Goldfrapp – Silver Eye
  8. Erasure – World Be Gone
  9. The Human League – Anthology – A Very British Synthesizer Group [number 37 in 2016]
  10. Pet Shop Boys – Nightlife [released in 1999, number 89 in 2004, number 177 in 2005, number 83 in 2006]
  11. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon [released in 1973, number 34 in 2014, number 20 in 2015, number 42 in 2016]
  12. Pet Shop Boys – Fundamental [released in 2005, number 5 in 2006]
  13. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury
  14. New Order – Lost Sirens [released in 2013]
  15. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène Trilogy [number 40 in 2016]
  16. Pet Shop Boys – Yes [released in 2009, number 172 in 2015, number 171 in 2016]
  17. Dusty Springfield – Reputation [released in 1990, number 35 in 2016]
  18. C Duncan – The Midnight Sun [number 12 in 2016]
  19. Gorillaz – Humanz
  20. Pet Shop Boys – Elysium [number 2 in 2012, number 14 in 2013, number 179 in 2014, number 120 in 2016]

Singles chart of the year 2017

These were the top singles for stowaways in 2017:

  1. Weeknd Ft Daft Punk – Starboy
  2. Depeche Mode – Where’s the Revolution
  3. Pet Shop Boys – Reunion
  4. Erasure – Love You To The Sky
  5. Goldfrapp – Anymore
  6. Depeche Mode – Going Backwards
  7. Pet Shop Boys – Leaving [number 2 in 2012, number 19 in 2013]
  8. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène (Part 17) [number 28 in 2016]
  9. Kraftwerk – Trans Europa Express [released in 1977]
  10. Erasure – Be Careful What You Wish For!
  11. Pet Shop Boys – Memory of the Future [number 16 in 2012, number 4 in 2013]
  12. C Duncan – Wanted to Want It Too [number 7 in 2016]
  13. Saint Etienne – Magpie Eyes
  14. Pet Shop Boys – Winner [number 1 in 2012, number 18 in 2013]
  15. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – As We Open, So We Close
  16. Pet Shop Boys – Christmas [released in 2009, number 16 in 2015]
  17. Saint Etienne – Dive
  18. Depeche Mode – Cover Me
  19. Röyksopp feat. Susanne Sundfør – Never Ever [number 5 in 2016]
  20. Saint Etienne – The Reunion

Bizarre search engine terms – 2018 edition

I don’t often look at the statistics for this blog, but occasionally it tells me one or two interesting facts. One of the more revealing is the search engine terms that bring people here. These are a selection of the ones that brought you here in the last year or so!

b.e.f. ‎– music for stowaways torrent

No. Just no. I say this every time, but if you want illegal music, this is not the right place to look. Stream, buy second hand, or best, buy the original in some form. Most of B.E.F.‘s debut album is available on the 1981-2011 box set.

“stephen hague” produce

A search which has brought people here on an astonishing nine different occasions. Stephen Hague turns up a lot on this blog, of course, and not always by name. Over a four-decade career, he’s been responsible for producing many of our favourite acts around here, including Orchestral Manoeuvres in the DarkPet Shop BoysNew OrderErasureMarc AlmondElectronicBlurDubstarSarah CracknellAfro Celt Sound Systema-haPeter GabrielClientClaudia Brücken and more. A future stowaway hero for sure.

location of the first brit award in 1981 [and 1981 brits awards]

A lot of people seem to come here now looking for information about the BRIT Awards. As you’ll see from this article, the first BRIT Awards was not in 1981 – there wasn’t even a ceremony that year. The first was in 1977, at Wembley Conference Centre. The first regular ceremony was in 1982, at Grosvenor House.

best kraftwerk album to start with

Everyone will have their own opinion on this, but I gave mine when Kraftwerk appeared on the Beginner’s guide feature three years ago. I’d stand by that judgement – start with Trans Europa Express or The Mix. It’s worth paying extra for the German releases.

vangelis aimless noodling

This might be one of my favourite web searches ever. Honestly, yes, a good chunk of Vangelis‘s music is aimless noodling, and rather amusingly it turns out that I actually used those exact words when I reviewed the Metropolis soundtrack in 2014, although at the time I wasn’t referring to the man himself.

If you want more, here’s the 2017 edition.

Chart for stowaways – 18 November 2017

Here are this week’s top albums:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Yes
  2. Pet Shop Boys – Elysium
  3. Pet Shop Boys – Release
  4. Pet Shop Boys – Nightlife
  5. Pet Shop Boys – Fundamental
  6. Saint Etienne – Home Counties
  7. Tears For Fears – Rule The World – The Greatest Hits
  8. Kraftwerk – 3-D Der Katalog
  9. Erasure – World Be Gone
  10. David Bowie – Legacy