OMD's first full album won as much attention for its brilliant die-cut cover -- another example of Peter Saville's cutting-edge way around design -- as for its music, and its music is wonderful. For all that, this is a young band, working for just about the last time with original percussionist Winston; there's both a variety and ambition present that never overreaches itself. The influences are perfectly clear throughout, but McCluskey and Humphreys would have been the last people to deny how Kraftwerk, Sparks, and other avatars of post-guitar pop touched them. What's undeniably thrilling, though, is how quickly the two synthesized their own style. Consider "Almost," with its dramatic keyboard opening suddenly shifting into a collage of wheezing sound beats and McCluskey's precise bass and heartfelt, lovelorn singing and lyrics. The chilly keyboard base of "The Messerschmitt Twins" gets offset by McCluskey's steadily stronger vocal, while the swooping, slightly hollow singing on "Mystereality" slips around a quietly quirky arrangement, helped just enough by Cooper's at-the-time guest sax. Even the fairly goofy "Dancing" has a weird atmosphere at play in the metallic vocals and groaning tones. In terms of sheer immediacy, there's little doubt what the two highlights are -- the re-recorded and arguably better version of "Electricity" is pure zeitgeist, a celebration of synth pop's incipient reign with fast beats and even faster singing. "Messages," though it would later benefit from a far more stunning reworking, still wears the emotion of its lyrics on its sleeve, with a killer opening line -- "It worries me, this kind of thing, how you hope to live alone and occupy your waking hours" -- and a melody both propulsive and fragile. The mysterious chimes and spy-movie dramatics of "Red Frame/White Light" (inspired by a phone box) are almost as striking. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark is just like the band that made it -- perfectly of its time and easily transcending it.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett