Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
Dazzle Ships



by Tom93M USER (139 Reviews)
May 4th, 2011 | 9 replies

Release Date: 1983 | Tracklist

Review Summary: How this ship does dazzle.

Was it a brave move or a stupid one? The choice to mould album number 4 into the most experimental outing yet has strong arguments coming from both sides. On one hand, it would seem a rather daft move for the boys of OMD to go all avant-garde and experimental after the success of ‘Architecture & Morality’ - inexplicably not capitalising on the mass of positive critique by opting not to regurgitating the same formula they used 2 years ago. But on the other hand, it’s a decision that deserves credit and respect. Choosing to experiment when it would’ve been so easy to rinse and repeat shows a great deal of integrity and focused ambition - something that many modern pop artist have neither of in great spates. Fortunately for Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, it’s this second hand that serves as the best summation of what ‘Dazzle Ships’ amounts to.

As the distorted samples of a Czech radio show (from what sounds like decades ago) fill the airwaves for the first minute of the opening track (Radio Prague), it soon becomes apparent that something is out of the blue. Track 2 is just as peculiar - a 3 and half minute synthpop song with samples blurting out words like “robotics”, “future”, “logical” and “efficient” matched to a rather upbeat, rising melody. The rest of the album carries on in a similar vein - with the short instrumental, experimental tracks outnumbering the more straightforward (although nonetheless distinctive) synthpop tunes. OMD just dived headfirst into a pool of experimentation and resurfaced with a cluster of industrial, scientific soundbites and the ability to produce synthpop that was a tantalising mix of sombre and upbeat - of light and dark. They just played around a lot, but the important detail is that it all works. The repetitive, soft vocal of “ABC…123” on ‘ABC Auto-Industry’ is catchy; the short jagged ramble of ‘This is Helena’ provides a much-welcomed burst of energy, and the title track (with the numbers II, III & VII tacked on) is downright haunting - despite only being comprised of a about 3 or 4 samples played successively, the atmosphere is cold and foreboding - a perfect summation of the cynical, uncertain technological vision OMD used to construct this album. There’s also some genuinely excellent, more familiar up tempo synthpop tracks to balance things out a touch. ‘Telegraph’ is incredibly infectious and so ridiculously lively that its too loveable to ignore, whilst ‘Of All The Things We’ve Made’ is quite possibly the most simple, yet chilling song in the bands catalogue - featuring a simple distorted acoustic guitar riff that sounds as if it could fall apart at any moment, a beautiful background melody and moving, affected vocals.

On ‘Dazzle Ships’, OMD risked a lot and they lost some of the chart success they'd managed to pull off in the past three years, but also became immensely more credible at the same time. They could’ve just deployed tried and tested chart geared hits like previous successes, but the point is they didn’t. They chose to experiment, and whilst the album might not necessarily be as immediately grabbing as older chart topping hits like ‘Enola Gay’ when each track is digested separately, but when served as a cohesive album played from start to finish without interruption, ‘Dazzle Ships’ compels just as much and proves that sometimes, the risk is worth the gain.

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user ratings (49)

Comments:Add a Comment 
May 4th 2011


great review

this is a band I have been sorely neglecting. I wish there was some way I could subscribe to a users reviews or something

May 4th 2011


gotta say the only song I know by them is "If You Leave"

May 4th 2011


Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Cheers, Meatplow.

If you're interested in getting into OMD, try ‘Architecture & Morality’ - it's their best. This is great too, but A&M is incredible (might review it soon).

A few key songs to check out aside from ‘Architecture & Morality’ album: Electricity, Enola Gay, Locomotion.

May 4th 2011


I have their S/T release, have not brought myself to listen to it yet though

May 4th 2011


Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Their debut isn't the best, still pretty good but their second album was much better. Their S/T release has 'Electricity' on it though and that's a great song.

November 29th 2012


Album Rating: 5.0

To assume that OMD consciously chose to be more experimental on Dazzle Ships is an error born of the time that has elapsed. Thirty years ago the band were always "experimenting" and constantly surprised when they sold huge numbers of records. D. Ships was a logical extension of the normal desire to extend their own and general musical boundaries. They just went too far for the 1980s audience this time.

No "sugar coating" to many of the ideas, as Andy McCluskey was later to concede.

However, now our musical listening palette has expanded greatly and the album does not seem quite so difficult. It is, however, still a wonderful journey.

April 25th 2014


This is almost as essential as Architecture & Morality. The Romance Of The Telescope is deeply moving. Man, what a great band. They may have gone the wrong way in later albums, they've made some pure electronic gold.

October 24th 2014


I don't think they ever recovered from Dazzle Ships(it's my favourite album by them).It's certainly their last worthwhile offering.It's like Virgin Records told them to come up with a hit after this or get dropped.Saying that 'Maid of Orleans' got to number 2 on the UK charts.1981 sure was a strange year for hit singles!

July 17th 2020


How does this still sound fresh as fuck

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