Mike Schiller: A shining example of synthpop in 2017, “The Punishment of Luxury” is an impossibly cynical song in a glittery, fluorescent shell. Reminiscent not only of OMD’s ’80s output but also of classic Information Society and New Order, the latest track from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark is a straightforward indictment of consumer culture and those who would champion it. Also, you can dance to it. It is expertly produced and performed, showcasing a band finding yet another peak in a long career full of them. [9/10]
A Noah Harrison: In the early ’80s, no group made a stronger case for the simultaneous worship and fear of our automated overlords than OMD. The synth pioneers were one step behind and two steps to the side of Kraftwerk — injecting a dark, happy-go-lucky humanness into their roboto-pop collages.
Four decades after their debut (and three-and-half after their masterpiece that almost bankrupted them, these highly literate art school kids are all grown up. While their ’80s material felt hyper-contemporary, futuristic really, this new record oozes nostalgic for an era that, well, they defined. As the band put it, they’ve found their sound, something they couldn’t and wouldn’t abandon.
“The Punishment of Luxury”, the opener and title track of their upcoming album, is a lovely tune — tight, bright, and in your face. The lyrics, which chastises us for leading a life of blind consumption, pair nicely with the simple, garish animation the video. It really gets you jazzed for our inevitable and bleak technological future. [7/10]
Paul Carr: A thrusting slice of perfectly pitched ’80s synthpop with a serious edge. It opens with urgent, almost industrial synths before classic, shimmering keyboards. The song provides a commentary on the perils of conspicuous consumption and our disposable society where, despite our material advantages over previous generations, people are becoming more isolated and unhappy. It’s an apposite and musically accomplished song that is anything but throwaway. [7/10]
Steve Horowitz: OMD seem to want to have it all: luxury and punishment, like those titillating anti-pornographic videos of yore. That’s okay. In a sense, everything contains its opposites, but I wish they would stretch a bit further. The music’s pleasant rhythms never really take one anywhere. Luxury has a price, but this song states the fact rather than lives it. So go ahead and dance. When the music’s over put something else on. It costs you nothing. [7/10]
Ian Rushbury: OMD have simply started again from where they left off. This could have been recorded anytime since 1983, and Andy McCluskey sounds EXACTLY the same as he did in 1979 which is pretty remarkable. The lyrical themes are well worn, but a dinky little one-finger keyboard hook saves the tune from dullsville. [6/10]
Adriane Pontecorvo: An infectious, adrenaline-pumping opening gives way to a cookie cutter synthpop throwback on “The Punishment of Luxury”, a song that has good ideas but a predictable execution. The anti-excess message is timely and welcome, and the beats are strong, but the final product feels a little too constrained. [5/10]
Tristan Kneschke: There’s no question that the ’80s are back with a vengeance. Synthwave is again part of the mainstream, and that means its neon blue/violet color palette and hazy outlines come with it. OMD’s best remembered hit, “If You Leave”, hails from the original era, so using the style deliberately feels backward in their context. OMD reliably delivers another track filled with bubbling synths, blippy effects, and electronic drums, but the lyrics and music video have all the subtlety of a spandex tracksuit or a “Choose Life” t-shirt. Everything is way too on the nose, a story about alienating consumerist culture we’ve heard too many times. The topic by itself isn’t uninteresting, it’s just that OMD doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It’s all made worse in its literalism, complete with a guy holding up signs that read “Comply”, “Consume”, and “Pretend”, and a book that turns from “Dreams” into “Lies”. Get it?? [2/10]
Chris Thiessen: This track speaks to the evils of today (“It’s ugly now / And it’s getting worse every day”) hoping for a change in the future while using the sounds of synthpop past. The video is a neon nightmare that intensifies the song’s poignancy with images of a consumeristic Trump, a worshipped Facebook like, and lip injections that puff until they burst. [8/10]
John Bergstrom: It sounds very OMD, is about the best thing you can say about the title track from their upcoming album. That is to say, pleasantly airy with a hefty dose of Kraftwerk. Unfortunately, nothing about it stands out, the lyrics are clunky, and regarding anti-consumerist synthpop, Heaven 17 did it better 35 years ago. Disappointing. [5/10]
Chris Ingalls: OMD are back — or did they ever really go away? When you think about it, this is the perfect time for these synth-pop legends to make a comeback (if that’s what’s happening here), given all the love there is for the ’80s these days. The keyboards sound appropriately retro as if this is a deep album cut from the band’s earlier days that you may have overlooked, but there’s also a touch of modernity that makes you think that they’ve invested in a few software upgrades. Like the best OMD, the synths are paired up with gleaming pop hooks. [7/10]