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OMD: Bauhaus Staircase – Album Review

The fourteenth album by OMD, Bauhaus Staircase, took three years to complete.

During the confusing COVID lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, core members Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys wrote down early ideas while separated by at least 200 miles.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, the legendary Wirral synth pop group, are making their much-anticipated comeback with all the customary hype and frenzied celebration.

Their most recent studio album, Bauhaus Staircase, demonstrates that they still have the same talent for creating incredibly catchy electronic pop songs, over 40 years into a hugely important career.

OMD: Bauhaus Staircase – Album Review

It makes perfect sense given the circumstances that the six-year gap between this album and its predecessor, 2017’s top-4 charting The Punishment of Luxury, seems endless.

 

Fans don’t need to worry, though, as the band has been progressively attracting a whole new generation of ardent fans since their 2010 comeback album History of Modern, which has added to their devoted hardcore fanbase from the start who have grown up with them.

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As of today, Friday, November 3, news has it that Bauhaus Staircase has surpassed all of their previous top 5 albums by entering at No. 2 in the official UK album charts—one place above the Rolling Stones and two above Duran Duran—and that the only person keeping them from the top spot is the ubiquitous, all-conquering Taylor Swift! Each of their three previous albums (English Electric was released in 2013) has been more successful than the one before! Quite an accomplishment!

 

You would think that all of this would have been in vain if the album had stagnated outside of the top 10 at best, given that it was released in a bewildering array of formats (at least seven different coloured vinyl variants, including a special first edition vinyl and 2CD edition, along with regular single and double CD and even cassette tape).

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The tracks on Bauhaus Staircase pay homage to the enticing blend of pop songs, melancholic synth ballads, and spiky experimentation found on the vintage album Dazzle Ships, which was reissued just eight months ago in honour of its 40th anniversary (review here).

How good, therefore, is the new OMD record? Definitely, it is; without a doubt. In fact, its subtle beauty can be so captivating in certain areas. The best thing about this album is that none of the 12 tracks sound forced or rushed; instead, they are all expertly composed, arranged, and produced.

All of the tracks, with the exception of one, are shorter than four minutes (the majority are three minutes long). That’s a gauge for how tight the editing is in this instance. Nothing remains for very long enough to grow moss or become weary.

Bauhaus Staircase, the album’s debut single and title tune, sets the tone with its unmistakable laser-guided mechanical precision. Andy McCluskey waxes poetic about his desire for art and culture to counteract the ills of the world over a brilliantly addictive, skittering electronic groove. He also makes the point that the only art that needs to be banished is that practiced by extremists (‘I’m going to kick down fascist art’).

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Andy McCluskey’s romantic word choice (which he did so brilliantly on some of OMD’s best early 80s singles) softens it into a kind of escapist reflection that sounds political without sounding overly preachy.

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