Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark English Electric

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the DarkEnglish Electric
From the opening synth stab and blonking chime of the "Please Remain Seated" intro, which sets the table for a modulated feminine voice to inform the listener that the future they anticipated has been cancelled, it's clear that the 12th studio album in the Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark catalogue isn't an idle cash-grab. Rather, their second release in the 2010s with their original line-up of Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Martin Cooper and Malcolm Holmes, English Electric pushes the OMD aesthetic to a state that, in many ways, has advanced beyond their most recognized work from the early '80s. Despite their attempt to retain the "dysfunctional" creative process of their youth, McCluskey's vocals have sweetened over time, for better or worse, while their collective musicianship has become increasingly refined. They can't hide their ability to write first-class, crystalline hooks and the lyrical narrative of English Electric is compellingly dark, continually referring the failure of the future-present to live up to the ideals of the future-past (i.e. "the future was not supposed to be like this"), which solidifies the record's thematic cohesiveness. Thankfully, their taste for Kraftwerk-ian synth-pop experimentation has yet to be quenched. With a little more vocoder, "Final Song" could slide right into the Kraftwerk oeuvre, while "Kissing the Machine" was originally written by long-time Kraftwerk member Karl Bartos. "Decimal" sounds like an amalgam of Laurie Anderson and Paul Lansky. Yet, moving beyond their usual tropes, superbly realized electro-house track "The Future will be Silent" could be played at peak time on the main stage at any major electronic music festival this summer, while "Atomic Ranch" sounds like an aborted mash-up of "Fitter Happier" by Radiohead and "We Want Your Soul" by Adam Freeland. English Electric brings to mind the effort Orbital put forth in 2012 (Wonky), which recalled that UK group's glory days while looking to the future. Nostalgia may still cloak OMD's early work in an impenetrable aura, but this album shows a band at the top of their game. (100%)