MUSIC FOR THE MASSES – Art And Consumerism Inspire New Album By Synth-Pop Pioneers OMD

Incredibly, OMD have been making music for nearly 40 years now and The Punishment Of Luxury is their 13th studio album.

It’s a varied collection that sees them again refusing to trade on past glories, tackling complex themes with invention and not a little humour.

Fittingly, much of the album takes it cue from the title track, named after a 19th century painting by Italian Giovani Segantini.

An arch satire on consumerism, it’s a full bloodied assault on the senses – the extravagant sheen of the music reinforcing the emptiness and artifice of a world driven by marketing and greed.

Setting the tone for much of what follows, it’s smart, cynical, but unapologetically poppy – the songwriting duo of Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys retaining their knack for writing catchy tunes.

The influence of synth granddaddies Kraftwerk looms large on Robot Man and the epic Isotypes, while What Have We DoneOne More Time and The View From Here demonstrate OMD’s talent for injecting warmth and emotion into machine-made melodies.

Talk of cold facades and cruel veneers sees the band moving into darker territory on the excellent As We Open, So We Close, but McCluskey’s at his most vitriolic on the biting Kiss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Bang.

“Fuck you and your theory,” he whispers acidly. “Nothing you do can get near me“.

Art Eats Art is a playful dance floor-filler, as they used to say in the ’80s – but Precision And Decay is less successful, fizzling out just as it starts to get interesting.

Another track inspired by a painting, Christopher RW Nevinson’s La Mitrailleuse – which translates as The Machine Gun – sees the band creating percussion and melody from simulated weapons fire.

It doesn’t entirely work, but it’s an interesting experiment nonetheless.

Versatile and entertaining, The Punishment Of Luxury is a worthy addition to the Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark canon.

The album may not hit all its targets, but like its best track Ghost Star – a symphonic six-minute pastoral opus – it manages to evoke the past, while still sounding like the future.

  • The Punishment Of Luxury is out today (September 1) on 100% Records 
  • OMD tour the UK and Ireland in October and November. Tickets available here.


About the author

Full time journalist, music lover (obvs) and truly terrible guitarist. You can find Matt on twitter @matcatch

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