Thursday, 7 March 2013

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark 'Locomotion'

Chart Peak: 5


You can tell we're back in the mid-80s here, because this track features a synthesised steel-drum solo, something that could only have been countenanced in a hit single for a fairly brief period. Still, it was an acceptable thing to do in 1984, and scored the duo their fourth Top 5 single, though only their second not about Joan Of Arc. That's a cute little fact anyway, but it does point to the move they were making at this point to slightly less arty, slightly more directly pop-focused material.

They're clearly trying to play the old trick of setting a downbeat lyric to chirpier music here, but that's a difficult thing to get right and whilst the latter is pretty much sorted they fall down somewhat on the former. As Andy McCluskey sings of "crossing every ocean for the sake of locomotion" the song is obviously supposed to be about restlessness, but the finished track is just too smooth and orderly to convey that sentiment - whether that's an intentional commercial decision or just a result of synths in that era not being able to cope with complex rhythms I'm not sure, but either way the meaning is lost beneath the gloss. Even the brass section, apparently arranged by no less than Tony Visconti and played by real people in the Netherlands, sounds like a cheap keyboard preset. Still, it does at least work as a pop song, with that low backing vocal of the "crossing every ocean" lyric an indelible hook. And the shaped picture disc does look pretty cool.

On a side-note, this was also the opening track on the Now 3 VHS tape, and one of only six tracks common to the video and audio versions of the title.

Also appearing on: Now 4, 8, 20, 25, 34
Available on: The OMD Singles

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