Album Review – OMD, “Souvenir” the Singles Collection and Box Set

PF WilsonAlbum Review, MusicLeave a Comment

It had been a topic of discussion for some time in the OMD fan group on Facebook, but many were skeptical. A CD box set, it was rumored, was coming in 2019 to mark the band’s 40th anniversary. The speculation turned to delight when it was announced that indeed a box set featuring all of the band’s singles, as well as two concerts and twenty unreleased studio tracks, was coming.

Ahead of the release came a brand new single, “Don’t Go.” These add-on singles are always dicey, but it has worked for the band before. Their first compilation, 1988’s The Best of OMD, featured the very fine “Dreaming,” which was also their second-biggest U.S. hit after “If You Leave” (OH, that’s who OMD is!).

The singles

The singles part can be obtained separately as a digital download, and for the casual OMD fan, this may be the way to go, though the concert discs are pretty awesome.

As advertised, it’s every one of the band’s singles from their first, “Electricity,” to the aforementioned “Don’ Go.” Oh, sure, the hardcore fans will always feel that some tracks shouldn’t have been singles, while others should have been, but what’s done is done.

Gate to gate, a winner

Also, unlike a lot of these exercises, it’s not frontloaded, though it does flow chronologically, of course. In other words, after 40 years, OMD still make great records, so top to bottom this is a solid collection. Yes, the early tracks sound more groundbreaking, because at the time they were. However, the fact they can still crank out tunes as sharp as “The Punishment of Luxury,” “Sister Marie Says,” “History of Modern (Part 1),” “Metroland,” and more is pretty amazing.

As for the “disc” of unreleased tracks, well, that’s a strange one. The 20 tracks are a hodge-podge of sonic ideas and whole songs. They’re out of order too. A bit of detective work (they give the song’s recording dates) lets the listener match up the track with the album session it came from.

Over the years, previously unreleased tracks have turned up on remastered albums, but this collection seems to indicate the vault is pretty well empty. That being said, we get “Untitled 2” and “Untitled 3,” begging the question, “what happened to the first “Untitled?”

The previously unreleased tracks

In any case, there are a couple of nice tunes within. “Brand New Science” from the Architecture & Morality sessions and “Dumbomb” from The Pacific Age are hidden gems. “Liberator,” from Crush, the album that contains their first U.S. top-40 hit “So in Love” (#26), is the best of the lot. For those familiar with the band, it very much sounds like it came from those sessions. Another from that session, “Dynamo Children” (a possible sequel to the single “Tesla Girls” from the previous album, Junk Culture?), is also a winner.

The whole set is remastered, of course, and sounds amazing. People always say, “We’re done remastering stuff,” but then again, technology continues to make even the oldest music sound brighter and sharper.

Two concerts

The live sets come from 1983 and 2011; the former recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon, the latter recorded in London and broadcast on BBC Radio 2. Both give slightly different perspectives on the hits, as well as some fan-favorite album cuts, which one might expect from a primarily electronic band. Fun fact: one of the band’s early influences was the very un-electronic Velvet Underground.

The only bummer is that American fans get jipped in that the two DVDs included with the UK release are left out of the North American edition. One disc is a run of BBC TV performances; mostly Top of the Pops. The second disc features two concerts as well as the very fine Crush: The Movie which documents the making of their sixth album.

If you’re looking for a user-friendly way to beef up your OMD collection, the 2 “disc” download set is for you. If you dig good live music or like to peel the onion a bit on a band’s creative process, take the plunge on the whole box set. Either way, you likely need much more OMD in your collection.

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PF WilsonAlbum Review – OMD, “Souvenir” the Singles Collection and Box Set