For their second album since reuniting the classic line-up, OMD deliver a very likable collection of songs recalls some of their best work of the 80's.
In 2010 OMD released History of Modern, which was the first album reuniting the classic OMD lineup since 1986's Pacific Age. The album hinted at what the band could achieve, but perfomances lacked spark and the songs weren't very memorable. It was the shell of the OMD sound, but lacked focus and sounded a bit too generic. Outside of Andy McCluskey's instantly recognizable vocals and a few trademark OMD synth tones, it sounded more like a band influenced by OMD than actually being OMD.
English Electric is their second album since returning, and it's a huge leap forward. This is OMD in "give the fans what they want" mode, featuring songs that highlight the strengths of their glory days while still sounding fresh. This time they embrace the distinctly OMD feel of their 80's albums, incorporating various elements of their first five or six albums. There's a nice balance of deceptively simple electropop, moodier downbeat melancholia, and big mainstream pop numbers with instantly catchy melodies. It's a very familiar sounding album with at least a few songs that could seamlessly fit onto that first Best of OMD singles collection. Or on the soundtrack to an imaginary John Hughes movie.
They've always owed a debt to Kraftwerk, and at several points on the album that influence is more apparent than on anything else they've done before. OMD don't retread their past, but they don't stray very far what they've done before either. This isn't the album for big innovations or an advancement in their sound. But it's also not a step back. The songs are well crafted and it's obvious that a lot of passion and attention went into making the record.
English Electric is instantly likable and consistently solid from start to finish. Despite the pristine and occasional almost-too-slick production (even by OMD's meticulous standards) there's a warmth to the whole thing that's very welcoming. It's not going to change the world, but there's great comfort in hearing OMD playing to all of their strengths.