Dazzle Ships (album)

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Dazzle Ships
OMD Dazzle Ships LP cover.jpg
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
Dazzle Ships
Junk Culture
Singles from Dazzle Ships
  1. "Genetic Engineering"
    Released: 1 February 1983
  2. "Telegraph"
    Released: 1 April 1983

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, titled Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool.

Dazzle Ships was the follow-up release to the band's hugely successful Architecture & Morality (1981). OMD, then at their peak of popularity, opted for a major departure in sound on the record, shunning any commercial obligation to duplicate their previous LP. The album is noted for its highly experimental content, particularly musique concrète sound collages, and the use of 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. Opinion of the record has transmuted in the years since its release, however: it has come to be regarded as a "masterpiece" and a "lost classic", and has achieved cult status among music fans. The album has also been cited as an influence by numerous artists.

Album information[edit]

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

Frontman Andy McCluskey recalled: "We wanted to be ABBA and Stockhausen. The machinery, bones and humanity were juxtaposed."[1] 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 (on the "Joan of Arc" single, "The Romance of the Telescope" was specifically described as "unfinished"). "Radio Waves" was a new version of a song from McCluskey and Paul Humphreys's pre-OMD band, The Id. Two singles were released from the album, "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 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.

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).[2] 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 cover painting, Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool, is in the collection of the National Art Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Canada.[3]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[4]
The A.V. Club (favourable)[5]
DIY (favourable)[6]
Leader-Post (mixed)[7]
Pitchfork (8.4/10)[8]
PopMatters (8/10)[9]
Q 5/5 stars[10]
The Quietus (favourable)[11]
Record Collector 5/5 stars[12]
Trouser Press (mixed)[13]

Critics were bewildered by the experimental Dazzle Ships.[14] John Shearlaw in Record Mirror cautioned: "To describe the LP as difficult and fractured is an understatement."[14] In 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."[7] Sounds critic Chris Burkham referred to "a continual start-stop effect as songs rub themselves up the wrong way", while John Gill in Time Out slammed Dazzle Ships as "redundant avant-garde trickery".[14]

Bob Stanley in The Guardian commented on its initial lack of success: "[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."[1]

Critical opinion of Dazzle Ships has since shifted to a more favourable stance, with the record garnering positive retrospective appraisals from Record Collector,[12] PopMatters,[9] The A.V. Club,[5] Q[10] and The Quietus,[11] among others. Ned Raggett in AllMusic noted the album's "alien feeling" and described it as "dazzling indeed";[4] he and colleague David Jeffries hailed the record as a "masterpiece"[15][16]—an opinion echoed by numerous critics.[17][18] Pitchfork journalist Tom Ewing wrote: "Luckily, you don't need a contrarian streak to love it... history has done its own remix job on Dazzle Ships, and the result is a richer, more unified album than anyone in 1983 could have imagined."[8] Gareth Ware in DIY said: "Like a strange piece of modernist architecture, it's a collection of awkward, jagged polygons which come together to form a cohesive mass at the last possible moment... [Dazzle Ships] demands attention."[6]

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."[1] 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."[19] It was the focus of the August 2007 instalment of Mojo magazine's "Buried Treasure" feature, which spotlighted a "wrongly forgotten" record.[20] Dazzle Ships 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.[21] The record has also been reintroduced to the public via album listings in publications like PopMatters,[19] The A.V. Club,[22] and Q magazine, who gave it a favourable reappraisal in a their "10 Great Old-School Electronic Albums" feature.[10] The record is a favourite among OMD listeners,[16] and has had a resurgence in popularity in recent years.[22] Stuart Huggett in The Quietus, while noting that Dazzle Ships has achieved cult status and features some of the band's strongest work, suggested that it "is likely to remain too off the wall ever to permanently join the general public's Classic Albums canon".[23]


Dazzle Ships has been highly influential on other artists.[24] Indie pop group Saint Etienne have referred to the album as a major influence, particularly on their 1991 record, Foxbase Alpha.[6] Chris Walla of alternative rock band Death Cab for Cutie called Dazzle Ships "a big chunk of the inspiration" for his group's 2011 release, Codes and Keys. He described Dazzle Ships as the record that "everyone points to as [OMD's] magnum opus", adding: "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."[25] Experimental rock band Radiohead are fans of Dazzle Ships;[24] multiple critics have pointed to "Genetic Engineering" as an inspiration for their OK Computer track, "Fitter Happier".[4][9][26] Comparisons have been drawn to Radiohead's Kid A as well.[4][9] In addition to these artists, numerous dance acts are aficionados of Dazzle Ships.[24]

Dazzle Ships has also been championed by producer Mark Ronson,[27] and indie rock musician Telekinesis, who has described the album as "genius".[28] Ronson, to whom Dazzle Ships was recommended by singer Amanda "MNDR" Warner, said of the record: "I was just completely floored. 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."[27] Musician and public speaker Terre Thaemlitz has said that she owns five different pressings of the album.[29]

Indie rock band Eggs released a cover of "Genetic Engineering" as a single in 1994.[23] Rapper Kid Cudi sampled "ABC Auto-Industry" on his 2009 track, "Simple As...".[30]

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
Canadian Albums Chart[31] 25
Dutch Albums Chart[32] 19
French Albums Chart[33] 14
German Albums Chart[34] 11
New Zealand Albums Chart[35] 10
Spanish Albums Chart[36] 3
Swedish Albums Chart[37] 38
UK Albums Chart[38] 5
US Billboard Pop Albums[39] 162


"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).


  • 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


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.


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]


  1. ^ a b c Stanley, Bob. How to lose 3 million fans in one easy step. The Guardian. 7 March 2008. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
  2. ^ "OMD Official Website Discography entry". Retrieved 9 April 2008. 
  3. ^ National Gallery of Canada: Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool, 1919
  4. ^ a b c d Raggett, Ned. "Dazzle Ships review". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 October 2009. 
  5. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 13 May 2011. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c Ware, Gareth (4 March 2013). "OMD: Of All The Thing We've Made: Dazzle Ships At 30". DIY. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Lawson, Michael (6 April 1983). "Dazzle Ships review". Leader-Post. Google News. Retrieved 22 June 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Ewing, Tom (17 April 2008). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Dazzle Ships". Pitchfork. Retrieved 3 October 2009. 
  9. ^ a b c d Bergstrom, John (17 April 2008). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Dazzle Ships Review". PopMatters. Retrieved 3 October 2009. 
  10. ^ a b c "Dazzle Ships". Q (June 2008). [Dazzle Ships] stands alongside Architecture & Morality as a document of OMD's creative zenith [...] never again would McCluskey and co shine like they did on this transcendent record. 
  11. ^ a b Turner, Luke (28 March 2008). "Dazzle Ships". The Quietus. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Easlea, Daryl. "Dazzle Ships – OMD – Album Review". Record Collector. Retrieved 3 October 2009. 
  13. ^ "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". Trouser Press. Retrieved 2 January 2017. 
  14. ^ a b c Waller, Johnny; Humphreys, Mike. Messages. Sidgwick & Jackson. 1987. ISBN 0-283-99234-4. p. 117.
  15. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Pretending to See the Future: A Tribute to OMD". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 August 2013. 
  16. ^ a b David, Jeffries. "English Electric". AllMusic. Retrieved 12 April 2013. 
  17. ^ "OMD back from the dead with a History Of Modern". Fact. 24 May 2010. Retrieved 22 July 2016. 
  18. ^ Hughes, Tim (25 August 2015). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark make a comeback to Rewind festival". The Oxford Times. Retrieved 22 July 2016. 
  19. ^ a b Bergstrom, John (1 August 2008). "Detours - The Strangest Albums From the Biggest Artists: The Eccentrics". PopMatters. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  20. ^ "Buried Treasure". Mojo. August 2007/Issue 165.
  21. ^ "Top 100 Albums of 1983: Slicing Up Eyeballs' Best of the '80s – Part 4". Slicing Up Eyeballs. 3 June 2013. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  22. ^ a b ""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. 
  23. ^ a b Huggett, Stuart (17 May 2016). "OMD's Cold War Album Comes In From The Cold: Dazzle Ships Live". The Quietus. Retrieved 22 July 2016. 
  24. ^ a b c Wade, Ian (8 April 2013). "Souvenirs: Andy McCluskey Of OMD's Favourite Albums". The Quietus. Retrieved 1 November 2013. 
  25. ^ Harward, Randy (18 August 2011). "Death Cab for Cutie: The concepts behind Codes & Keys". Salt Lake City Weekly. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  26. ^ Weber, Theon (13 March 2007). "On First Listen: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". Stylus. Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  27. ^ a b Ryzik, Melena (1 October 2010). "An Admirer of Tight Production, But of Sludge, Too". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  28. ^ Lerner, Michael (23 April 2013). "OMD". TheTalkhouse. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  29. ^ Johannsen, Finn (31 August 2009). "Rewind: Terre Thaemlitz on Dazzle Ships by OMD". Sounds Like Me. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  30. ^ "Simple As...". Man on the Moon: The End of Day. 2009. GOOD Music.
  31. ^ "http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/ OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark) – Dazzle Ships". Retrieved 4 October 2009.  External link in |title= (help)
  32. ^ "http://dutchcharts.nl". Archived from the original on 7 November 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2011.  External link in |title= (help)
  33. ^ "http://www.infodisc.fr/Albums_Detail.php/ OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark)". Archived from the original on 15 July 2015. Retrieved 4 October 2009.  External link in |title= (help)
  34. ^ "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark > Albums". Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  35. ^ "charts.org.nz – OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) – Dazzle Ships". Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2009. 
  36. ^ "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark > Albums". Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  37. ^ "swedishcharts.com – OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) – Dazzle Ships". Retrieved 4 October 2009. 
  38. ^ "Chart Stats – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Dazzle Ships". Retrieved 4 October 2009. 
  39. ^ "AllMusic – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums". Retrieved 4 October 2009. 
  • Liner notes