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Album review | synth pop

Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, ‘English Electric’

“What does the future sound like?” asks OMD on its 12th studio album. More than 30 years ago, OMD predicted a future buzzing with chilly blips and synthesized percussion. The future sounded like Molly Ringwald’s sullen “Pretty in Pink” prom theme, “If You Leave.” With “English Electric,” they’ve thrown their crystal ball in the recycling bin and instead have fun singing about a never-realized future that lacks robot wives and jetpacks. “The future you anticipated has been canceled” informs a computerized female voice. With that cue, OMD hits the rewind button on its cassette-player time machine, straps on a couple of keytars, and pogos to the 1980s. It’s comfortable, familiar, and joyful. OMD and its ilk influenced a generation of synth-pop musicians such as La Roux and Crystal Castles. When reinvigorated, this brand of retro-futurism sounds shockingly fresh, and OMD doesn’t bother with any rebooting. Songs like “Metroland” sound teleported directly from 1983. In the case of “English Electric,” the future sounds like an optimistic and comforting past.

Essential “Metroland”

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