Some albums start out as vinegar and end up the finest wines, don’t they?
Case in point: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s Dazzle Ships. The time was 1981 and OMD had just released their career and critical high point in Architecture + Morality, an inspired blend of electronic experimentation (not unlike their musical heroes Kraftwerk) and sublime humanity. It was an unqualified success on all fronts, and what does any successful band do after releasing such an album? Well, if you’re OMD you release an obtuse, abstract concept album on cold war tension as a follow up.
Unlike it’s predecessor, Dazzle Ships was critically derided upon it’s release and spawned only a minor hit in Genetic Engineering. Of course we all know how the story ends, right? The group quickly sold it’s artistic soul to filmmaker John Hughes, released If You Leave on the “Pretty In Pink” soundtrack and became one of the biggest bands on the planet.
But something happened to Dazzle Ships in the 25 years since it’s release. It became hugely influential.
“On its own merits it is dazzling indeed, a Kid A of its time that never received a comparative level of contemporary attention and appreciation. Indeed, Radiohead's own plunge into abstract electronics and meditations on biological and technological advances seems to be echoing the themes and construction of Dazzle Ships.”
I recently re-purchased the re-mastered “Special Editions” of Dazzle Ships, Architecture + Morality and Organisation (this misspelled title itself an homage to Kraftwerk; it’s their original name), and I was blown away by the sheer inventiveness and “freshness” these releases have maintained. Especially Dazzle Ships. It’s a brilliant record that has not dated in the least. The out of date electronics, the early 80’s cold war references and even the sound effects on This Is Helena (“Music for your tape recorder!”) sound like eerie reminisces and are extremely effective, and at times quite chilling. Dazzle Ships is the reason I don’t trade in my CD’s. Times change, taste changes.
This re-issue gets my #2 vote for best re-issue of the year, the number 1 slot reserved for, obviously, Jesus Of Cool.
Do you, dear reader, have an example like the one above? If so, please share.
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