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.
|Studio album by|
|Released||4 March 1983|
The Gramophone Suite
|Genre||Electronic, musique concrète, experimental, synthpop|
60:13 (2008 reissue)
|Producer||Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark|
|Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark chronology|
|Singles from Dazzle Ships|
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.
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]."
McCluskey later recalled: "We wanted to be ABBA and Stockhausen. The machinery, bones and humanity were juxtaposed." 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). 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".
Reception and legacyEdit
|Encyclopedia of Eighties Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Contemporary reviews of Dazzle Ships were mostly unfavourable. 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". John Shearlaw in Record Mirror cautioned that "to describe the LP as difficult and fractured is an understatement". 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". 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." In a largely dismissive review, Maxim Jakubowski acknowledged that a few of the tracks "recapture the melancholy brilliance of the past". 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". 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".
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), and achieved sales of 300,000 copies. 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. 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."
The LP has garnered positive retrospective appraisals from publications such as Record Collector, The A.V. Club, Q and The Quietus, among others. John Bergstrom of PopMatters said the album "is rightly considered a lost classic". 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." Ned Raggett in AllMusic said the record "beats Kraftwerk at their own game", and described it as "dazzling indeed"; he and colleague David Jeffries hailed the album as a "masterpiece"—an opinion echoed by numerous critics. 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."
A deluxe edition of Dazzle Ships with bonus tracks was released in March 2008, twenty-five years after the original release. 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." It was the focus of the August 2007 instalment of Mojo magazine's "Buried Treasure" feature, which spotlighted a "wrongly forgotten" record. 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. The record has been included in listings such as the Chicago Tribune's "10 essential New Wave albums", Q's "10 Great Old-School Electronic Albums" and The A.V. Club's "36 great but underappreciated records from 1983".
John Bergstrom wrote that the record "stands as one of the most unorthodox releases ever by a major pop artist". It is a favourite among OMD fans, and has had a resurgence in popularity since its 2008 re-release. 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".
Ian Wade of The Quietus described Dazzle Ships as "deeply influential". Indie pop group Saint Etienne have referred to the album as a major influence, particularly on their 1991 record, Foxbase Alpha. Founder member Bob Stanley noted that it is now "accepted as a great record". 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."
Dazzle Ships has also been championed by producer Mark Ronson, 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." 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." Musician and public speaker Terre Thaemlitz has said that she owns five different pressings of the record. 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'."
- 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.
|1.||"Radio Prague"||Arranged by Humphreys, McCluskey||1:18|
|2.||"Genetic Engineering"||Humphreys, McCluskey||3:37|
|3.||"ABC Auto-Industry"||Humphreys, McCluskey||2:06|
|5.||"This Is Helena"||Humphreys, McCluskey||1:58|
|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"||Arranged by Humphreys, McCluskey||1:49|
|12.||"Of All the Things We've Made"||Humphreys, McCluskey||3:27|
|13.||"Telegraph" (The Manor Version 1981)||Humphreys, McCluskey||3:25|
|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.
|Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)||100|
|Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)||25|
|Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)||19|
|German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)||11|
|New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)||10|
|Spanish Albums (AFYVE)||3|
|Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)||38|
|UK Albums (OCC)||5|
|US Billboard 200||162|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||100,000^|
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
- 7": Telegraph VS 527
- "Genetic Engineering" – 3:37
- "4-Neu" – 3:33
- 12": Telegraph VS 527-12
- "Genetic Engineering" (312mm version) – 5:18
- "4-Neu" – 3:33
- 7": Telegraph VS 580
- "Telegraph" – 2:57
- "66 and Fading" – 6:40
- 12": Telegraph VSY 580-12
- "Telegraph" (extended version) – 5:53
- "66 and Fading" – 6:30
- 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.
List of used instruments:
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[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.
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- Liner notes