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English Electric

OMD was always one of my favourite '80s bands - their machine-tooled fusion of sweet pop, and austere synths, made them different from Depeche Mode, who were darker, less elegant, less literary.  OMD seemed to refer back to an earlier 20th century Golden Age that Auden might have recognised - modernity in solemn collision with war, technology, love, and loss.  Famously, their best songs were about factories, Hiroshima, and dead female saints; and soundtracked Hughes movies.  But they were very English for all their international style.

Now comes their first truly great work for 30 years - English Electric - an album peppered with unrequired samples from robot voices and modish public announcements - that nonetheless has the sound, scope and mood of their masterpiece, Architecture and Morality.

The best track is the second, 'Metroland', a peppy yet sad reflection on "elegance in decline".  OMD always located lyricism in some austere ironic modernist hinterland of regret and restraint, as if Brief Encounter had been written by William Empson.  Here this British quietude flashes as darkly as ever with a passionate, ambiguous, industrial pulse.  One of the albums of the year.

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