Dazzle Ships (album)

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) allude to a painting by Vorticist artist Edward Wadsworth based on dazzle camouflage, titled Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool.

Dazzle Ships
OMD Dazzle Ships LP cover.jpg
Studio album by
Released4 March 1983 (1983-03-04)
The Gramophone Suite
Gallery Studio
Mayfair Studio
GenreElectronic, musique concrète, experimental, synthpop
60:13 (2008 reissue)
LabelTelegraph (Virgin)
ProducerOrchestral 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 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 experimental content, particularly musique concrète sound collages, and the use of shortwave radio recordings to explore Cold War and Eastern Bloc themes.

Dazzle Ships met with a degree of critical and commercial hostility. However opinion of the record has changed in the years since its release, and it has come to garner critical acclaim and a cult following among music fans. The album has also been cited as an influence by multiple artists.

Album informationEdit

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

Paradoxically, in light of the eventual critical reaction to Dazzle Ships, the direction taken on the new LP was partly a response to muted reviews of the preceding Architecture & Morality. Speaking to the BBC's Richard Skinner during a radio interview just prior to its release, singer Andy McCluskey said: "We didn't think [Architecture & Morality] got the respect it deserved. We put a lot into it and we really loved it and you know us, we worry at the best of times. So anything which undermines our own unstable balance creates a problem for us... [S]ome of these worries we had after Architecture and Morality have forced us into new areas on this [album]."[1]

McCluskey later recalled: "We wanted to be ABBA and Stockhausen. The machinery, bones and humanity were juxtaposed."[2] However, the album did 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).[3] 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.[4]

Reception and legacyEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [5]
Encyclopedia of Eighties Music     [6]
Q     [9]
Record Collector     [10]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [11]
Smash Hits8/10[12]
Times Colonist     [13]

Contemporary reviews of Dazzle Ships were mostly unfavourable.[7][14] NME reviewer Chris Bohn wrote: "Once Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark get any place, you can guarantee Kraftwerk were there at least five years previously".[15] John Shearlaw in Record Mirror cautioned that "to describe the LP as difficult and fractured is an understatement".[16] 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 the record as "redundant avant-garde trickery".[16] Michael Lawson in the Leader-Post wrote that "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."[17] In a largely dismissive review, Maxim Jakubowski acknowledged that a few of the tracks "recapture the melancholy brilliance of the past".[18] More forgiving was Melody Maker's Paul Colbert, who wrote that "as an album from start to finish it's a challenge and a reward".[19] Reviewer Johnny Black in Smash Hits hailed the new musical direction saying, "the songs are waiting to be found and are as melodic, passionate and vital as ever".[12]

The record peaked at #5 on the UK Albums Chart and remained in the top 20 for six weeks (rising from #19 to #16 in its second-to-last week),[20] and achieved sales of 300,000 copies.[2] It was deemed a flop in comparison to multi-million selling predecessor Architecture & Morality (1981), which prompted OMD to move in a more conservative musical direction on future releases.[2] Musician and music journalist Bob Stanley commented on its limited impact: "[It] contained no obvious hits and soundtracked the cold war at its coldest... Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's Dazzle Ships came to be viewed as a heroic failure – the ultimate commercial suicide."[2]

The LP has garnered positive retrospective appraisals from publications such as Record Collector,[10] The A.V. Club,[21] Q[9] and The Quietus,[22] among others. John Bergstrom of PopMatters said the album "is rightly considered a lost classic".[23] 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."[7] Ned Raggett in AllMusic said the record "beats Kraftwerk at their own game", and described it as "dazzling indeed";[5] he and colleague David Jeffries hailed the album as a "masterpiece"[24][25]—an opinion echoed by numerous critics.[26][27] DIY writer Gareth Ware 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."[1]

A deluxe edition of Dazzle Ships with bonus tracks was released in March 2008, twenty-five years after the original release.[28] 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."[2] It was the focus of the August 2007 instalment of Mojo magazine's "Buried Treasure" feature, which spotlighted a "wrongly forgotten" record.[29] 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.[30] The record has been included in listings such as the Chicago Tribune's "10 essential New Wave albums",[31] Q's "10 Great Old-School Electronic Albums"[9] and The A.V. Club's "36 great but underappreciated records from 1983".[14]

John Bergstrom wrote that the record "stands as one of the most unorthodox releases ever by a major pop artist".[23] It is a favourite among OMD fans,[25] and has had a resurgence in popularity since its 2008 re-release.[32] 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".[33]


Ian Wade of The Quietus described Dazzle Ships as "deeply influential".[34] Indie pop group Saint Etienne have referred to the album as a major influence, particularly on their 1991 record, Foxbase Alpha.[1] Founder member Bob Stanley noted that it is now "accepted as a great record".[35] Chris Walla of alternative rock band Death Cab for Cutie called it "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."[36]

Dazzle Ships has also been championed by producer Mark Ronson,[37] and several musicians. Ronson, to whom Dazzle Ships was recommended by singer Amanda "MNDR" Warner, said of the album: "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."[37] Indie rock musician Michael Lerner of Telekinesis has a special liking for the album. Lerner explained: "It was one of those records that hit me at the complete right moment. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and I'll never forget that time in my life."[38] Musician and public speaker Terre Thaemlitz has said that she owns five different pressings of the record.[39] Angus Andrew of experimental rock band Liars also named Dazzle Ships as one of his favourite albums saying; "[T]his album is such a cohesive statement, portraying a bleak and lonely environment of a different sort [...] It's such an incredible feat to feature experiments like 'Dazzle Ships, Pts. 1-3', and have them compliment and enhance an album with more straight forward tracks like 'Telegraph'."[40]

Indie rock band Eggs released a cover of "Genetic Engineering" as a single in 1994.[33] Rapper Kid Cudi sampled "ABC Auto-Industry" on his 2009 track, "Simple As...".[41]

Track listingEdit

  • 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
1."Radio Prague"Arranged by Humphreys, McCluskey1:18
2."Genetic Engineering"Humphreys, McCluskey3:37
3."ABC Auto-Industry"Humphreys, McCluskey2:06
4."Telegraph"Humphreys, McCluskey2:57
5."This Is Helena"Humphreys, McCluskey1:58
Side two
7."Dazzle Ships (Parts II, III & VII)"Humphreys, McCluskey2:21
8."The Romance of the Telescope"Humphreys, McCluskey3:27
9."Silent Running"Humphreys, McCluskey3:34
10."Radio Waves"McCluskey, John Floyd3:45
11."Time Zones"Arranged by Humphreys, McCluskey1:49
12."Of All the Things We've Made"Humphreys, McCluskey3:27
Bonus tracks on 2008 reissue
13."Telegraph" (The Manor Version 1981)Humphreys, McCluskey3:25
14."4-Neu"Humphreys, McCluskey3:34
15."Genetic Engineering" (312MM version)Humphreys, McCluskey5:12
16."66 and Fading"Humphreys, McCluskey6:33
17."Telegraph" (extended version)Humphreys, McCluskey5:38
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 (1983) Peak
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[42] 100
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[43] 25
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[44] 19
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[45] 11
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[46] 10
Spanish Albums (AFYVE)[47] 3
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[48] 38
UK Albums (OCC)[49] 5
US Billboard 200[50] 162


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[51] Gold 100,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


"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 detailsEdit

  • 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 linksEdit


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ a b c d e Stanley, Bob. How to lose 3 million fans in one easy step. The Guardian. 7 March 2008. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
  3. ^ "OMD Official Website Discography entry". Archived from the original on 18 April 2001. Retrieved 9 April 2008.
  4. ^ a b Raggett, Ned. "Dazzle Ships – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 October 2009.
  5. ^ Larkin, Colin (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Eighties Music. Virgin Books. p. 350. ISBN 0753501597.
  6. ^ a b c Ewing, Tom (17 April 2008). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Dazzle Ships". Pitchfork. Retrieved 3 October 2009.
  7. ^ Bergstrom, John (17 April 2008). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Dazzle Ships". PopMatters. Retrieved 3 October 2009.
  8. ^ a b c "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Dazzle Ships". Q (263). 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.
  9. ^ a b Easlea, Daryl (April 2008). "Dazzle Ships – OMD". Record Collector (348). Retrieved 3 October 2009.
  10. ^ Evans, Paul (2004). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. p. 607. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  11. ^ a b Black, Johnny (3 March 1983). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Dazzle Ships". Smash Hits: 41.
  12. ^ "New wave effort verges on crest of futuristic rock". Times Colonist. 25 June 1983. p. 34 (C-4). Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  13. ^ a b O'Neal, Sean (20 August 2013). "Not Murmur: 36 great but underappreciated records from 1983". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  14. ^ Bohn, Chris (5 March 1984). "Dazzle Ships [album review]". NME. Rock's Backpages. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  15. ^ a b Waller, Johnny; Humphreys, Mike. Messages. Sidgwick & Jackson. 1987. ISBN 0-283-99234-4. p. 117.
  16. ^ Lawson, Michael (6 April 1983). "Dazzle Ships review". Leader-Post. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
  17. ^ Jakubowski, Maxim. The Rock Album: Volume Two. Zomba Books (1984). ISBN 0-946391-26-2 p. 27.
  18. ^ Colbert, Paul. "On the Dazzle". Melody Maker (5 May 1983). p.16.
  19. ^ The Virgin Rock Yearbook: Volume 4. Edited by Al Clark. Virgin Books (1983). ISBN 0-907080-87-1.
  20. ^ O'Neal, Sean (26 December 2006). "Permanent Records: Albums From The A.V. Club's Hall Of Fame". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on 13 May 2011. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  21. ^ Turner, Luke (28 March 2008). "Dazzle Ships". The Quietus. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  22. ^ a b Bergstrom, John (1 August 2008). "Detours - The Strangest Albums From the Biggest Artists: The Eccentrics". PopMatters. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  23. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Pretending to See the Future: A Tribute to OMD". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
  24. ^ a b David, Jeffries. "English Electric". AllMusic. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  25. ^ "OMD back from the dead with a History of Modern". Fact. 24 May 2010. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  26. ^ Hughes, Tim (25 August 2015). "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark make a comeback to Rewind festival". The Oxford Times. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  27. ^ "OMD Reissue Dazzle Ships". uncut.co.uk. 17 January 2008. Retrieved 2 March 2020.
  28. ^ "Buried Treasure". Mojo. August 2007/Issue 165.
  29. ^ "Top 100 Albums of 1983: Slicing Up Eyeballs' Best of the '80s – Part 4". Slicing Up Eyeballs. 3 June 2013. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  30. ^ "Top of the Pops!". Chicago Tribune. 26 February 1998. p. 63 (Tempo, p. 1). Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  31. ^ ""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.
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ Wade, Ian (8 April 2013). "Souvenirs: Andy McCluskey Of OMD's Favourite Albums". The Quietus. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  34. ^ Hann, Michael (28 November 2016). "the making of Saint Etienne's Foxbase Alpha". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  35. ^ Harward, Randy (18 August 2011). "Death Cab for Cutie: The concepts behind Codes & Keys". Salt Lake City Weekly. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  36. ^ a b Ryzik, Melena (1 October 2010). "An Admirer of Tight Production, But of Sludge, Too". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  37. ^ Lerner, Michael (23 April 2013). "Michael Lerner (Telekinesis) talks OMD's English Electric". TheTalkhouse. Archived from the original on 17 October 2016. Retrieved 22 August 2013.
  38. ^ Johannsen, Finn (31 August 2009). "Rewind: Terre Thaemlitz on Dazzle Ships by OMD". Sounds Like Me. Archived from the original on 2 September 2009. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  39. ^ Turner, Luke (16 April 2014). "No Barrier Fun: Angus Andrew of Liars' Favourite LPs". The Quietus. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  40. ^ "Simple As...". Man on the Moon: The End of Day. 2009. GOOD Music.
  41. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 224. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  42. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 6242a". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  43. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) – Dazzle Ships" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  44. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) – Dazzle Ships" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  45. ^ "Charts.nz – OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) – Dazzle Ships". Hung Medien. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  46. ^ Salaverrie, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Madrid: Fundación Autor/SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  47. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) – Dazzle Ships". Hung Medien. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  48. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  49. ^ "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Archived from the original on 18 April 2019. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  50. ^ "British album certifications – OMD – Dazzle Ships". British Phonographic Industry. 7 March 1983. Retrieved 27 December 2020.
  • Liner notes