Sign up for our free newsletter

Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.

Hearing OMD for the first time on Factory Records in 1979 was a revelation. The single was “Electricity,” and the song crackled like a live wire, all pinging keyboards and a taut line of straining tenor Andrew McCluskey. “Electricity” was a thoroughly modern single, bouncing and disheartened, totally disconnected from the rough-edged punk that intelligent, ominously clean British New Wave sought to discredit. For those who scorned OMD as a shallow synth band, the follow-up, “Enola Gay,” proved that there were brains and politics as well as a strong sense of songcraft at work—the indelible keyboard line, as well as the narrow swoop of the melody cementing OMD’s reputation as the post-feel-good ELO. And that’s the full spectrum of their contribution to musical progress; after these mind-bending experiments, OMD found themselves trapped in a style, a boppy electro-pop that could only be dumbed down by embellishments of horns and handclaps (on the absurd “Locomotion”) and fake-yearning vocals that sounded even more insincere when wading into the dangerous waters of romance. “So in Love” was kind of good and stands up, in a dreamy, resentful way, thanks to the lovely reading of the line, “God, I did my best.” But “If You Leave” merely proved OMD was Journey with haircuts, no matter how many prom queens chose it as their first dance in 1986. Subject was never OMD’s strong suit, hence tired retreads like “Tesla Girls” and no fewer than two paeans to “Joan of Arc” and “Maid of New Orleans.” The Singles is an ’80s archivist’s must-have, if only because the hits were scattered so sparsely throughout OMD’s many full-length albums; but as long as HFS still has Flashback Cafe, the world is not in danger of losing these singles to history.—Arion Berger