OMD continuing to make history 

In 1996, OMD main man Andy McCluskey looked at what he created — a slice of synth-pop perfection called “Walking on the Milky Way,” from a frothy album called “Universal” — and knew it was his ultimate achievement.

Then he promptly broke up the band.

“I didn’t think I could write a better song than that,” says the Liverpool-based artist, who launched OMD with keyboardist partner Paul Humphreys back in 1978.

“I just thought that was — as we say over here — the ‘dog’s bollocks.’”

The single, however, proved to be something of an albatross for OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark), which recently reunited for a new album, “History of Modern,” and a tour that brings the band to the Bay Area on Saturday.

“Radio 1 wouldn’t play it in the U.K., because we were an old band,” McCluskey says. “And because Radio 1 wouldn’t play it, many of the shops wouldn’t stock it. So when it got to No. 17 with its arms tied behind its back, I thought, ‘I really am banging my head against the wall here, aren’t I?’ ‘Walking on the Milky Way’ was the song that effectively made me realize it was time to retire.”

Time brought the duo back together. During the last decade, McCluskey says, there was renewed interest in ’70s synthesizer music.

OMD’s definitive early smash “Enola Gay” was used in the hit animated movie “Waltz With Bashir.” Young electro-clash outfits wanted them as producers.

“With the new millennium, there was this movement away from ’90s Britpop and grunge,” says McCluskey, 51. “So there was something coming, and when we were asked to tour, we thought we’d tie it up nicely as ‘25 Years Since ‘Architecture And Morality,’’ which gave us an excuse to play that whole album and remind people of our credibility.”

But recording again demanded deeper thought. “Paul and I analyzed our historical output, and we agreed that the first four albums was when we invented our own distinctive voice,” McCluskey says. “So we decided if we were going to speak again as OMD, we needed to speak in that voice.” Ergo, modern tracks such as “Green,” “Sister Marie Says” and “New Babies: New Toys” blip and bleep with fun retro-futuristic edginess.

McCluskey’s retirement wasn’t really one; he was busy in his hometown studio and inventing two all-girl pop groups to sing his songs, Atomic Kitten and The Genie Queen.

“I was conceited enough to think that there was nothing wrong with my songwriting — it was the messenger that was being rejected, not the message,” he says. “And with Atomic Kitten, I actually managed to get my first U.K. No. 1!”



Where: Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $29.50
Contact: (800) 745-3000,

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Tom Lanham

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