Dazzle Ships (album)

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Dazzle Ships
Studio album by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Released 4 March 1983 (1983-03-04)
Recorded 1982
The Gramophone Suite
Gallery Studio
Mayfair Studio
Genre Electronic, musique concrète, experimental, synthpop
Length 34:43
60:13 (2008 reissue)
Label Telegraph (Virgin)
Producer Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Rhett Davies
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark chronology
Architecture & Morality
(1981)
Dazzle Ships
(1983)
Junk Culture
(1984)
Singles from Dazzle Ships
  1. "Genetic Engineering"
    Released: 1 February 1983 (1983-02-01)
  2. "Telegraph"
    Released: 1 April 1983 (1983-04-01)

Dazzle Ships is the fourth album by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), released in 1983. The title and cover art (designed by Peter Saville) alluded to a painting by Vorticist artist Edward Wadsworth based on dazzle camouflage. The painting, Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool, is in the collection of the National Art Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Canada.[1]

Dazzle Ships was the follow-up release to the band's hugely successful Architecture & Morality. OMD, then at their peak of popularity, opted for a major departure in sound on the record,[2] shunning any commercial obligation to record "Architecture & Morality number two".[3] The album is noted for its highly experimental content, particularly musique concrète sound collages, utilising shortwave radio recordings to explore Cold War and Eastern Bloc themes.

In contrast with its predecessor, Dazzle Ships met with a degree of critical and commercial hostility, but has gone on to be retrospectively hailed by critics as a "masterpiece" and a "lost classic" within popular music. The record has also been championed, and cited as an influence, by several modern artists.[4]

Album information[edit]

Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool, 1919, the ultimate source of the album's name.

The track "Genetic Engineering" is an overt homage to Kraftwerk, with the vocal arrangement drawing heavily on the structure employed on their track "Computer World".

The band's former record company, the independent Dindisc label, had recently ceased trading, and so the band's contract was transferred to DinDisc's parent company, Virgin Records. However, to maintain the image of being signed to an "indie" label, the record sleeve purported that the album was released by the fictitious "Telegraph" label. The album was released on LP, compact cassette and compact disc.

Frontman Andy McCluskey recalled: "We wanted to be ABBA and Stockhausen. The machinery, bones and humanity were juxtaposed."[5] However, the album did also contain six conventional pop songs, both up-tempo numbers and ballads. Two of them, "The Romance of the Telescope" and "Of All the Things We've Made" were remixed versions of songs previously issued on B-sides to earlier singles, leaving only four new "real" songs on this album, one of them, "Radio Waves", being a new version of a song from Humphreys and McCluskey's pre-OMD band, The Id. Two singles were released from it, "Genetic Engineering" and "Telegraph", which achieved moderate chart success in the United Kingdom and on American rock and college radio. Both were also released as 7" vinyl picture discs.

The "Radio Prague" track is the actual interval signal of the Czechoslovak Radio foreign service, including the time signal and station ID spoken in Czech. "Time Zones" is a montage of various speaking clocks from around the world. Neither "Radio Prague" nor "Time Zones" carry any writing credit at all, with OMD being credited only for arranging the tracks. The "This Is Helena", "ABC Auto-Industry" and "International" tracks also include parts of some broadcasts recorded off-air (a presenter introducing herself, economic bulletin and news, respectively).[6]

"Genetic Engineering" was covered by indie rock band Eggs and released as a single in 1994.

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[7]
The A.V. Club (favourable)[8]
BBC (favourable)[9]
Leader-Post (mixed)[10]
Record Collector 5/5 stars[11]
PopMatters (8/10)[3]
Pitchfork Media (8.4/10)[12]
Q 5/5 stars[13]
The Quietus (favourable)[14]
Time Out (unfavourable)[15]

Upon release, the experimental Dazzle Ships alienated many critics. John Shearlaw in Record Mirror cautioned: "To describe the LP as difficult and fractured is an understatement."[15] In his review for the Leader-Post, Michael Lawson wrote: "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark strains so hard to be topical on their fourth album, Dazzle Ships, that they ultimately find themselves mired in obliqueness...too much attention [is] given to soundtrack-like effects that only clutter what decent electropop baubles there are here – and there is indeed some good, if limited, work."[10] John Gill in Time Out slammed Dazzle Ships as "redundant avant-garde trickery".[15]

Bob Stanley in The Guardian wrote: "[The album] contained no obvious hits and soundtracked the cold war at its coldest. No one bought it, mind you, so Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's Dazzle Ships came to be viewed as a heroic failure – the ultimate commercial suicide...[it] entered the charts at No 5, then dropped like a stone."[5]

Critical opinion of Dazzle Ships has since shifted to a more favourable stance, with the record garnering positive retrospective appraisals from the BBC,[9] Record Collector,[11] Pitchfork Media,[12] PopMatters[3] and The A.V. Club,[8] among others. Ned Raggett in AllMusic hailed it as "dazzling indeed",[7] and a "masterpiece"[16]—an opinion echoed by colleague David Jeffries.[17] In a positive review for PopMatters, John Bergstrom wrote: "Now, a quarter century later, both music and concept hold up as remarkably ahead of their time...Given the context of its original release, Dazzle Ships is quite possibly the most unique, unexpected, and uncommercial album ever to make the UK Top Five. If it overreaches the standard paradigm of pop music by a mile, its grasp covers almost all that ground. It remains an imperfect but stunning and, crucially, enthralling experience."[3]

Reflecting on the record in 2008, McCluskey said: "The album that almost completely killed our career seems to have become a work of dysfunctional genius...it's taken Paul [Humphreys] 25 years to forgive me for Dazzle Ships. But some people always hold it up as what we were all about, why they thought we were great."[5] That same year, John Bergstrom in PopMatters wrote: "It stands as one of the most unorthodox releases ever by a major pop artist...Today, Dazzle Ships is rightly considered a lost classic."[2] It was the focus of the August 2007 instalment of Mojo magazine's "Buried Treasure" feature, which spotlighted a "wrongly forgotten" record.[18] Dazzle Ships is positioned as one of the top 5 albums of 1983 at Sputnikmusic.[19] It was listed in Slicing Up Eyeballs' "Best of the '80s" in June 2013, being ranked as one of the top 25 releases of 1983 based on almost 32,000 reader votes.[20] The record has also been reintroduced to the public via album listings in publications like PopMatters,[2] The A.V. Club,[21] and Q magazine, who gave the album a favourable retrospective review in a feature entitled "10 Great Old-School Electronic Albums".[13] Although largely unknown to mainstream audiences, the record is regarded as a fan favourite among OMD listeners.[17]

Influence on other artists[edit]

Ian Wade in The Quietus described Dazzle Ships as "deeply influential." He reported that experimental rock band Radiohead were fans of the album;[22] several critics have observed the impact of the record on that group. Ned Raggett in AllMusic opined: "[Dazzle Ships is] a Kid A of its time that never received a comparative level of contemporary attention and appreciation. Indeed, Radiohead's own plunge into abstract electronics and meditations on biological and technological advances seems to be echoing the themes and construction of Dazzle Ships. What else can be said when hearing the album's lead single, the soaring 'Genetic Engineering', with its Speak & Spell toy vocals and an opening sequence that also sounds like the inspiration for 'Fitter Happier', for instance?"[7] In an article for Stylus, Thoem Weber argued that the Radiohead track is "deeply indebted" to "Genetic Engineering".[23] PopMatters journalist John Bergstrom observed: "As a Speak & Spell toy doles out lines like 'butcher engineer' in its synthesized voice [on 'Genetic Engineering'], you wonder if Radiohead heard the track before composing 'Fitter Happier'. The question answers itself in the form of 'ABC Auto Industry'...It's a direct predecessor of [Radiohead's] OK Computer." He continued the Radiohead comparison by asserting: "Referring to Dazzle Ships as OMD's Kid A is getting the right idea but ultimately sells the former album short."[3]

"[Dazzle Ships,] everyone points to as [OMD's] magnum opus. It's really a gorgeous album. It's daring and it's weird and it leans a lot on the paranoia of the Cold War."

 —Chris Walla, Death Cab for Cutie.[24]

Dazzle Ships has been championed by the likes of producer and musician Mark Ronson,[25] Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs of indie pop group Saint Etienne,[26] Chris Walla of alternative rock band Death Cab for Cutie,[24] musician and public speaker Terre Thaemlitz,[27] and indie rock musician Telekinesis, who has declared the album as his all-time favourite.[28] Ronson said of the record: "I was just completely floored [by Dazzle Ships]. It's so weird when you hear something that's like 30 years old that immediately you're just like, 'I've been robbed, I could have been listening to this for the past 30 years'. It's just so elegant but a bit lo-fi at the same time. Bands...that took so long in the studio, just discovering the technology of those samplers and pitching and doing stuff with it, got it so right."[25]

Track listing[edit]

  • Label copy credits: All songs written and/or arranged by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (except "Radio Waves", by OMD/Floyd).
  • Writing credits below from ASCAP database.
Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Radio Prague"   Humphreys, McCluskey 1:18
2. "Genetic Engineering"   Humphreys, McCluskey 3:37
3. "ABC Auto-Industry"   Humphreys, McCluskey 2:06
4. "Telegraph"   Humphreys, McCluskey 2:57
5. "This Is Helena"   Humphreys, McCluskey 1:58
6. "International"   McCluskey 4:25
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
7. "Dazzle Ships (Parts II, III & VII)"   Humphreys, McCluskey 2:21
8. "The Romance of the Telescope"   Humphreys, McCluskey 3:27
9. "Silent Running"   Humphreys, McCluskey 3:34
10. "Radio Waves"   McCluskey, John Floyd 3:45
11. "Time Zones"   Humphreys, McCluskey 1:49
12. "Of All the Things We've Made"   Humphreys, McCluskey 3:27
Bonus tracks on 2008 reissue
No. Title Writer(s) Length
13. "Telegraph (The Manor Version 1981)"   Humphreys, McCluskey 3:25
14. "4-Neu"   Humphreys, McCluskey 3:34
15. "Genetic Engineering (312MM Version)"   Humphreys, McCluskey 5:12
16. "66 and Fading"   Humphreys, McCluskey 6:33
17. "Telegraph (Extended Version)"   Humphreys, McCluskey 5:38
18. "Swiss Radio International"   None: "Arranged by OMD" 1:03

The "Manor Version" of "Telegraph" was recorded at the same time as Architecture & Morality. "Swiss Radio International" was dropped from the album at the last minute. Like "Radio Prague", it contains the call sign for a radio station and was once referred to as "The Ice Cream Song" by drummer Mal Holmes due to its similarity to the melodies played by ice cream vans.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1983) Peak
position
UK Albums Chart[29] 5
New Zealand Albums Chart[30] 10
Swedish Albums Chart[31] 38
French Albums Chart[32] 14
Netherlands Albums Chart[33] 19
Canadian Albums Chart[34] 25
US Billboard Pop Albums[35] 162
Spain Albums Chart[36] 3
German Albums Chart[37] 11

Singles[edit]

Genetic Engineering

  • 7": Telegraph VS 527
  1. "Genetic Engineering" – 3:37
  2. "4-Neu" – 3:33
  • 12": Telegraph VS 527-12
  1. "Genetic Engineering (312mm Version)" – 5:18
  2. "4-Neu" – 3:33

The punning title of "4-Neu" was a dedication to the influential "krautrock" band Neu!. "312mm" is approximately twelve inches (304.8mm).

Telegraph

  • 7": Telegraph VS 580
  1. "Telegraph" – 2:57
  2. "66-And Fading" – 6:40
  • 12": Telegraph VSY 580-12
  1. "Telegraph (Extended Version)" – 5:53
  2. "66-And Fading" – 6:30

Personnel[edit]

Production details[edit]

  • recorded at The Gramophone Suite, Gallery Studio and Mayfair Studio
  • mixed at The Manor Studio
  • engineered by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Rhett Davies, Ian Little, Keith Richard Nixon, Brian Tench
  • produced by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Rhett Davies
  • mastered at The Master Room by Arun Chakraverty
  • designed by M. Garrett, K. Kennedy, P. Pennington, Peter Saville, and Brett Wickens for Peter Saville Associates.

Instruments[edit]

In terms of instrumentation, Dazzle Ships saw the band begin to explore digital sampling keyboards (the E-mu Emulator) in addition to their continued use of analogue synthesizers and the Mellotron.

List of used instruments:

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ National Gallery of Canada: Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool, 1919
  2. ^ a b c Bergstrom, John (1 August 2008). "Detours - The Strangest Albums From the Biggest Artists: The Eccentrics". PopMatters. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Bergstrom, John (17 April 2008). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Dazzle Ships Review". PopMatters. Retrieved 3 October 2009. 
  4. ^ See: Reception and legacy.
  5. ^ a b c Stanley, Bob. How to lose 3 million fans in one easy step. The Guardian. 7 March 2008. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
  6. ^ "OMD Official Website Discography entry". Retrieved 9 April 2008. 
  7. ^ a b c Raggett, Ned. "Dazzle Ships review". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 October 2009 (2009-10-03). 
  8. ^ a b O'Neal, Sean (26 December 2006). "Permanent Records: Albums From The A.V. Club's Hall Of Fame". Wayback Machine. The A.V. Club. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  9. ^ a b Easlea, Daryl (20 February 2008). "Review of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Dazzle Ships". BBC. Retrieved 3 October 2009. 
  10. ^ a b Lawson, Michael (6 April 1983). "Dazzle Ships review". Leader-Post. Google News. Retrieved 22 June 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Easlea, Daryl. "Dazzle Ships – OMD – Album Review". Record Collector. Retrieved 3 October 2009. 
  12. ^ a b Ewing, Tom (17 April 2008). "Pitchfork: Album Reviews: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Dazzle Ships". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 3 October 2009. 
  13. ^ a b Q (June 2008). 
  14. ^ Turner, Luke (28 March 2008). "Dazzle Ships". The Quietus. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  15. ^ a b c Waller, Johnny; Humphreys, Mike. Messages. Sidgwick & Jackson. 1987. ISBN 0-283-99234-4. p. 117.
  16. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Pretending to See the Future: A Tribute to OMD review". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 August 2013 (2013-08-27). 
  17. ^ a b David, Jeffries. "English Electric review". AllMusic. Retrieved 12 April 2013 (2013-04-12). 
  18. ^ "Buried Treasure". Mojo. August 2007/Issue 165.
  19. ^ "Best Pop Albums of 1983". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
  20. ^ "Top 100 Albums of 1983: Slicing Up Eyeballs’ Best of the '80s – Part 4". Slicing Up Eyeballs. 3 June 2013. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  21. ^ ""Now I’m bored and old": 27 deliberately confounding follow-ups to popular successes". The A.V. Club. 17 August 2009. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  22. ^ Wade, Ian (8 April 2013). "Souvenirs: Andy McCluskey Of OMD's Favourite Albums". The Quietus. Retrieved 1 November 2013. 
  23. ^ Weber, Theon (13 March 2007). "On First Listen: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". Stylus. Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  24. ^ a b Harward, Randy (18 August 2011). "Death Cab for Cutie: The concepts behind Codes & Keys". Salt Lake City Weekly. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  25. ^ a b Ryzik, Melena (1 October 2010). "An Admirer of Tight Production, But of Sludge, Too". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  26. ^ Ware, Gareth (4 March 2013). "OMD: Of All The Thing We've Made: Dazzle Ships At 30". This Is Fake DIY. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  27. ^ Johannsen, Finn (31 August 2009). "Rewind: Terre Thaemlitz on Dazzle Ships by OMD". Sounds Like Me. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  28. ^ Lerner, Michael (23 April 2013). "OMD". TheTalkhouse. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  29. ^ "Chart Stats – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Dazzle Ships". Retrieved 4 October 2009. 
  30. ^ "charts.org.nz – OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) – Dazzle Ships". Retrieved 4 October 2009. 
  31. ^ "swedishcharts.com – OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) – Dazzle Ships". Retrieved 4 October 2009. 
  32. ^ "http://www.infodisc.fr/Albums_Detail.php/ OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark)". Retrieved 4 October 2009. 
  33. ^ "http://dutchcharts.nl". Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  34. ^ "http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/ OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark) – Dazzle Ships". Retrieved 4 October 2009. 
  35. ^ "AllMusic – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums". Retrieved 4 October 2009 (2009-10-04). 
  36. ^ "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark > Albums". Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  37. ^ "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark > Albums". Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  • Liner notes