Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
Remarking on their first LP, founding Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark member Paul Humphreys stated, “Sometimes beautiful, sometimes a little naïve, but then that really is a big part of its charm.” It was true, he and partner Andrew McCluskey had formed like many recording acts do, because of a shared love of the same type of music, in this case the pioneering electronic outfits of Kraftwerk, Brian Eno and Neu!. It's that youthful, exploratory thrust of their first album that has kept it as a milestone within their discography.
Their eponymous debut had been preceded by the single “Electricity” in 1979, a handsome, if jerky manifesto. Impressed with that sampling, DinDisc, a smaller subsidiary imprint of Virgin Records, signed OMD on the spot. With the advance monies given to them from the label, OMD wisely invested in themselves, building their own recording studio in which they wrote and recorded Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Chester Valentino joined the pair to produce the set. McCluskey and Humphreys provided all the vocals and most of the instruments, usually confined to keyboards and bass guitar.
This seemingly economic angle birthed a wealth of sounds and moods―from bright, British synthpop (“Messages”) to catchy, esoteric jams (“Red Frame/White Light”) and experimental, atmospheric pieces (“Julia's Song”). The previous year's charter “Electricity” was included on the album when it was released in early 1980. Critically, the LP made OMD instantaneous favorites of the music press, but their chart fortunes hit a snag with their fourth LP, Dazzle Ships (1983). This changed when they decided to orbit a commercial crowd with Junk Culture (1984).
But Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark was a brilliantly minimalist start for OMD who kept hitting new heights with each subsequent record they released.