English new wave/synthpop act, OMD, developed a strong fan base in the 80s, before returning to the fore in 2006, selling over 40 million records worldwide.
Signed first to Factory Records and then snapped up by Virgin, the duality inherent in OMD was plain to see from the start, as Peter Saville’s minimalist artwork belied the warmth of Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys’ timeless songwriting.
Described by The Quietus as “not just one of the best synth bands ever – they are one of the best bands ever”, OMD’s influence has become ubiquitous. The xx, the Killers and LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy have cited OMD as an inspiration, and the likes of Future Islands and Chvrches show traces of OMD’s DNA.
Now they return with their thirteenth album ‘The Punishment of Luxury’, a daring collection of stylish synth-pop and masterful songcraft that sees OMD edge out of their comfort zone without compromising their integrity. “It’s almost like we’ve gone back to being teenagers after all these years,” says Andy. “We just do whatever we want and there’s no record company to tell us what we can or can’t do.”
The album takes its name from an 1891 painting by the Italian divisionist Giovanni Segantini that hangs in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, where it caught Andy’s eye. Divisionism is a technique of painting similar to pointillism, and Segantini’s painting, ‘The Punishment of Luxury’, depicts two women, condemned for having ideas “above their station”, floating in a limbo of purgatory in an Alpine landscape. “We appropriated the title for something else,” explains Andy. “In a nutshell: most people in the western world are now materially better off than their predecessors ever were and yet we are unhappier because we have replaced the imagined order of religion and royal decree with the imagined order of marketing and commercial propaganda. So everybody thinks they need more stuff and now we have loads of things that we don’t need because we’ve been persuaded we do. Everybody is miserably unhappy and that is the punishment of luxury.”
The band were thrown off-balance in July 2013 when long-time drummer Malcolm Holmes suffered a serious heart attack onstage at a sweltering concert in Toronto on the ‘English Electric’ tour. “We struggled initially to start writing ‘The Punishment of Luxury’ album because we were in shock after Malcolm nearly died,” says Andy. “We didn’t want to play live as we wanted to give him 12 months, just to see how he was, and also we felt shocked and up in the air. It took us a year to get our engine started.” Malcolm, who joined OMD in 1980, is in good spirits today but can no longer drum under doctor’s orders. His replacement is Stuart Kershaw who has now been playing live with the band for the last year, and has previously co-written several OMD tracks, most notably Sailing on the Seven Seas.
Two special shows at the Museum of Liverpool in November 2014 pulled ‘Punishment…’ – and the band – into focus. At the event, Paul, Andy and keyboardist Martin Cooper performed songs from their experimental high-water mark ‘Dazzle Ships’ and lesser-known tracks from the OMD catalogue, using drum programs in place of Malcolm. Listening to the ‘Dazzle Ships’ material, the band found themselves reconnecting with it, reappraising what they’d set out to achieve in 1983. “Hearing what we’d done on ‘Dazzle Ships’ made us more determined to do weird and glitchy things – it got us enthused,” says Andy. “We shackled ourselves after that record, thinking we’d gone too far.” Perhaps they hadn’t gone far enough.
It was in this spirit of adventure and discovery that ‘Punishment…’ was forged. Having delivered a vintage OMD album with ‘English Electric’, their best since, well, ‘Dazzle Ships’, Andy and Paul found they could take more risks in the studio and see where the software and endless banks of synthetic sounds would take them. As they see it, their comeback album, ‘History of Modern’ (2010), for all its flaws, wiped the slate clean and allowed them to effectively reboot OMD as a credible proposition. Andy describes ‘History of Modern’ as their John the Baptist record, one that spoke of the next coming: “It was a collection of ideas and had a rock palette but we specifically wanted to be more electronic.”
OMD have always been techno-futurists but rarely have they sounded so brutally electronic as they do on ‘Punishment…’, as they pair gnarly electro rhythms with characteristically serene melodies on the opening title track, and slide Andy’s blue-eyed soul ballads ‘One More Time’ and ‘The View From Here’ into sleek new digital frames. Next to the imperial Kraftwerkian rush of ‘Isotype’, one detects traces of Arpanet or Dopplereffekt in the pristine glide of ‘Kiss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Bang’, while the striking ‘As We Open, So We Close’ welds glitch-scoured beats to a McCluskey croon. Andy suggests the inspiration for this raw approach came from the playful German producer Atom TM’s 2013 ‘HD’ album, “which managed to make beautiful things out of noises and repetitive patterns. We basically did a glitch remix of our own track, cut it down to the bare bones. Trouble is, we can’t help writing a catchy melody.”
In common with ‘English Electric’, this album explores several themes but the prevailing mood is one of wistful nostalgia and idealised romance, of what might have been in both society at large and in more intimate relationships. Paul’s tender ‘What Have We Done’ examines the final stages of a long relationship. Andy muses on 20th-century modernism on ‘Kiss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Bang’ – “Mao Tse-tung and Uncle Sam, sold the world, bought the car, this time you’ve gone too far”, he sneers – and sings of the international picture language on ‘Isotype’, a now-archaic system devised in the 1930s that, he argues, has resonance today. “I like the idea of reducing information down to typographic images. But when we use emojis, we’re going backwards in our ability to communicate with each other.”
For ‘La Mitrailleuse’, another track named after a painting, this time one from 1915 of First World War machine-gunners by the British Futurist Christopher Nevinson that Andy came across in the Imperial War Museum, they patch together a military rhythm from cannon fire and rifle shots while Andy whispers: “Bend your body to the will of the machine.” This is accompanied by a haunting clip in which Nevinson’s soldiers are animated by regular collaborator Henning M Lederer. A second collage, ‘Precision & Decay’, tells a story in fragments of Detroit’s decline from industrial powerhouse to modern-day ghost town – “from luxury to landfill” – as Andy and Paul salute the city that’s given them so much pleasure in Motown and techno.
“We did feel like we were doing something that was changing the world,” says Andy of those early days when OMD would shock TV audiences with their weird new-wave on Top of the Pops. Their vision of utopia never quite materialised, of course, but with ‘The Punishment of Luxury’, OMD continue to enrich our lives.
Eat before the show
Why not begin your evening with a bite to eat? There’s no need to book.
- Chargrilled handmade burger with crispy bacon melted mozzarella, iceberg relish and side of chips & onion rings
- Grilled chicken and vegetable kebabs served with sundried tomato and basil couscous
- Local fish fritto misto served with chips, lemon and parsley mayo finish with oriental style salad
- Young spinach, artichokes, green asparagus and cherry tomato pasta with a lime, olive oil & parmesan dressing (V) (GF)
- Vegan salad organic bean shoots, cherry tomatoes, avocado & vegan smoked cheese with a lime, ginger & vanilla dressing (V) (GF)
- Sweet potato wedges with Jalapeno pesto dip and a cucumber & mint raita (V)
- Chunky chips and homemade mayo (V)
- Green salad (V)
Please note that Booking Fees apply on the following transactions:
Online: £1 per ticket + £1.50 postage or free collection at the Box Office
Telephone: £2 per transaction + £1.50 postage or free collection at the Box Office
In Person: Free
Please note that we are only able to post tickets within the UK. If you live overseas please select box office collection or print at home tickets.
- By Rail
Direct trains go from London Victoria, Brighton and Ashford to Bexhill.
There are also trains from London Charing Cross, changing at St. Leonards Warrior Square and from London Bridge or Charing Cross going to Battle. Battle is only a short taxi journey away (15 mins approx).
Visit www.nationalrail.co.uk for up-to-date train travel information.
Town Taxis: 01424 211 511
Parkhurst Taxis: 01424 733 456
- By Car
If driving from the London area:
Take the M25, then A21 to Hastings. Turn off at John‘s Cross and follow the signs to Bexhill.
Take the A22 to Eastbourne, go across the Bishop roundabout to the A271 and follow the signs to Bexhill and the seafront. The De La Warr Pavilion is on the Marina.
From the Brighton area:
Follow the A27 out of Brighton until you arrive in Bexhill On Sea.
Please be aware the Rother District car park outside the De La Warr Pavilion operates paid parking until 8pm. After this time parking is free. There is also lmiited free car parking along the seafront.
Within the limits of this Grade One listed building, the De La Warr Pavilion strives to be fully accessible with a range of facilities to support your visit.
Assistance Dogs are permitted into the building.
Please contact the Box Office on 01424 229 111 to arrange a visit.
Facilities for disabled visitors
- Ramped access at the front of the building
- A low counter at the Box Office and Information Desk
- Disabled toilets on two floors
- A lift to all floors
- Accessible galleries on both floors
- An accessible Café
- Spaces for wheelchairs in the auditorium for seated events
- Ramped access in the auditorium for events during the day
- Ramped access into the Studio
- Two travel wheelchairs are available for use at the De La Warr Pavilion. To reserve, please call our box office and information desk on (01424) 229111 or ask a member of staff on arrival. The chairs are provided on a first come, first served basis and are intended for use inside the Pavilion. Please contact us for more information.
Facilities for blind or visually-impaired
- Large print season brochures
Facilities for the hard-of-hearing
- An T-Switch induction loop in some areas of the auditorium (please indicate when booking as this facility is not available on the balcony)
- British Sign Language interpretation tours of the building and exhibitions are available on request.