Brave, boys – O.M.D & their ‘Dazzle Ships’ (1983)

An album ahead of its time? After listening to the thing several times, I have got to say that OMD probably were preceding the likes of Boards of Canada, amongst others, by at least 15 years. While some of the tracks are not songs, but random snatches of radio broadcasts (like the eerie opener, Radio Prague, which, though melodic, still feels like it is being dredged from the depths of a bad dream), others are sugarsweet pop melodies with bouncy electro. Sugarsweet melodies, bouncy electro – and lyrical themes that tackle subjects such as Genetic Engineering (on ‘Genetic Engineering’, obviously). The lyrics, in typical OMD style, do not deal with the usual themes like boy-mmets-girl. In previous years, for example, they had sung about the US Air Force B-29 bomber that dropped the first nuclear bomb during wartime (‘Enola Gay’). The lead single of this album, ‘Telegraph’, is a blissful hymn to maybe not understanding, but embracing new ideas anyway (in this case, mass communication). The confusion in the lyrics seems to encapsulate the initial reaction to the album, which was not favourably reviewed on its initial release, and not met with mass approval by listeners.

1. Radio Prague
2. Genetic Engineering
3. ABC Auto Indistry
4. Telegraph
5. This Is Helena
6. International
7. Romance Of The Telescope
8. Silent Running
9. Radio Waves
10. Time Zones
11. Of All The Things We’ve Made
12. Dazzle Ships

‘Dazzle Ships’ was borne out of the frustration of writers block that affected Andy McCluskey, and there are signs of this, such as the inclusion of reworked B-Sides (like ‘Romance of the Telescope’), but the overall composition of the album, with its snatches of Eastern Bloc radio broadcasts, robotic voices, upbeat melodies and musique concrete making sense in todays musical framework, where the likes of Kraftwerk (an obvious influence here) have long been feted.

The whole point of this post, as well as stressing that the album is really worth your time and money, is to direct you towards an article that gives you an appreciation of how brave OMD were in releasing this album, that appeared in the Guardian a while back;

‘How to lose 3 million fans in one easy step’ in the Guardian Online

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (to use their full name) produced some fantastic electro/futurist pop in the eighties, with gems such as ‘Electricity’ and ‘Enola Gay’ still sounding great today. ‘Dazzle Ships’ can be viewed as their great leap forward, and their creative highpoint. Brave to the point of risking their fanbase, this album is a fitting tribute to those artists willing to challenge the expectations of the listener without being wilfully obtuse. They were never this challenging again – in 1984 they released the album ‘Junk Culture’, a more upbeat collection including top 5 UK hit ‘Locomotion’.

Further links;

OMD fan site talks about the album
BBC review of ‘Dazzle Ships’
Wiki entry for ‘Dazzle Ships’
All about the album at Sid Smiths blog

What is a dazzle ship? Want to know? Find out here

Resident Evil – Deal or no Deal?

Deal ‘or no’ Deal is by far the best thing on telly (now that The Wire and The Sopranos are gone, and Doctor Who is only pretty good, but this is before Peep Show comes back next week). So let me elaborate – Deal “or no” Deal is THE best quiz show around, and i’m not even a fan of quiz shows! It makes afternoons on Channel 4 SEXY (yeah Carol Vorderman) and it has made me forget about the loss of William G Stewart from our Nations screens. Deal…is a tv programme designed for the 21st century – for example, if I miss the show at 16:15, I can watch it on ch4 plus one, or on 4OD, or on Virgin Media On Demand. If I watch it via 4OD or Virgin Media On Demand, you get the ads cut out, condensing the thrill of it all, but to really cut to the chase, you can just fast forward the talking bits and see the boxes flash by along with the Bankers offers. Depends what mood I am in, because with the superfast option, you miss all the tension and emotion as you find out whether the contestant dealt at the right or wrong time. I love the show, its gambling by proxy, and I really enjoy it when people win the ‘life-changing’ (one of Noel Edmonds favourite phrases) sums of money.

There is a sense of community amongst the contestants – this is not a game show where they pit player vs player, it is all about one of the team getting as much money as possible from the ‘Man’ (ie the ‘Banker’). Its kind of like David vs Goliath, with Noel Edmonds hosting and the other contestants giving advice from the sidelines. Noel Edmonds isn’t too smug or annoying. In fact, he is really very good, and has made the show his own with his ‘common touch’ and left-field moments (like taking contestants outside the confines of the studio, going into the control room, allowing other contestants to run the show etc).

Anyway, the reason I write about Deal or no Deal is not just to flag it as a great bit of entertainment (though it is), or to lay bare my admiration for it (though I have). No, the purpose of this post is to show up the hitherto unseen link between “Deal or no deal”, a TV quiz show, and the “Resident Evil” survival horror franchise. Astounding as it may seem, the quiet reflective periods of both games have very similar background music. Let me give you 2 example of the ‘Deal or no Deal’ music – on the first clip, the music kicks in straight away (sometimes it is hard to hear it, but bear with it);


If you are still not convinced, try running the Resi clip while watching the “Deal…” videos, so that you can hear the Resident Evil music play while contestants weigh up their options. It works for me.

I think I have given sufficient audio evidence – to create their unique brand of calm, the “Deal or no Deal” team have employed similair music to that used in “Resident Evil”. What does it mean? In my view, I think it means that this quiz show will be around when the T-Virus starts turning the East Wing and the West Wing contestants into raving revenants. The Bankers offer is a helicopter ride out of town, a Magnum 45 with a full clip and 2 tins of baked beans – deal or no deal??

The Power of Cover Art – The Walking Dead #53 cover!!!

*Deep breath*……came across this today – – and amongst all the other Image solicitations for July 2008, we now know the cover art (very new, doesn’t even have the lettering on it) for Walking Dead #53 – are you ready???? It is a beauty, and asks a lot more questions than it answers – which is great!


Written by Robert Kirkman, art and cover by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn.

To the rescue.

32 pages, black and white, $2.99, in stores on July 16.

So – speculation……..are they the new major characters? Are they meeting up with Rick? Are they Military? Are we about to see the beginning of the fightback against the undead???? Does it suggest well organised, fully resourced communities out there beyond the devastated Prison compound? Maybe (and this is probably unlikely) they are Woodbury folk. If they are Woodbury folk, things could go one of two ways, and one way could be very bad for Rick….

Once again, the best comicbook series ANYWHERE teases and tantalises and promises – and I doubt doubt that Kirkman & co will deliver…….

Matchbox Fighting Furies (Mid 1970’s)

Pirates were big news in the mid 70’s. Well, Pirates were big news in our house anyway. For a couple of years Pirate action figures hung around, courtesy of Matchbox (who were a lot more famous for their small toy cars) and their ‘Fighting Furies’ range (though when I say range, it wasnt much of a choice – 3 figures in total…)

You had Captain Pegleg;

and Hook;

and then there was another one – a GHOST. The Ghost of Cap’n Kidd lived in a coffin and was a sort of light lime green. Anyway, as soon as you took him into the dark, you could see his luminous ghostly skeleton – aarrghhhh! and aaaaa-hhhaaaarrrrr!

My memory is of the treasure map in the peg leg, and how difficult it was to get it to go back in after thumbing the map a few times. Then, of course, the map got lost. You could press a button somewhere on the body and the figure would wave their sword arm around so you could have fantastic mini pirate battles. I think the treasure map and peg-leg fascinated me more to be honest, that and the purple tattoo on Hooks chest (see top picture).

Saw this on ebay recently – looks to be part of a collection available in Europe, where you put the outfit on one of the action figures you have already – this one is ‘Kung Fu Master Adventure’

and this is from the back, with all the other costumes you can get for the figures;


The Big Red Toybox talks ‘Fighting Furies’ – probably the best resource on these toys

Plaid Stallions blog with a nice piece about Fighting Furies

Forum discussion on Fighting Furies

Here is a press advert for Matchbox Fighting Furies from the mid-Seventies (looks like it is taken from some sort of Trade Magazine or paper);

Over in the States, but not over here in the UK, you had Mego producing a line of Pirate action figures at the same time as ‘Fighting Furies’, including Blackbeard and the intriguingly named ‘Jean LaFitte’…..