Prior to the introduction of a levy on Coca-Cola and other sugary drinks by the Government of the day, the nearest you would get to a ‘Sugar Tax’ is a rather nifty little musical album from 1991, by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (or shortened to OMD, thankfully saving those of us with bad fingers having to type that name repeatedly).

OMD by 1991 was in effect the solo vehicle of the singer Andy McCluskey and a few friends collaborating, for two years previous, OMD had actually semi-split up. Co-Founder Paul Humphreys, drummer Malcolm Holmes and Martin Cooper had left the band after ‘creative differences’ and originally they wanted to be OMD. Problem was, their record label, Virgin, only wanted an OMD with its familiar lead singer and they were left to form a new band, the short-lived Listening Pool.

We’ll definitely have to review their only album ‘Still Life’ sometime. It’s a cracker. Furthermore, they couldn’t release anything until Andy McCluskey had released new OMD music and it was a complete quagmire of lawyers earning a lot of money.

By the early 1990’s, music had changed and things were a bit more dancey and trancey compared to the New Wave stylings in which OMD had made their name in the decade previous and Sugar Tax was the album where the band tried to muscle in on those sort of stylings. Indeed, the album featured a grand total of one live instrument, a live guitar from Stuart Boyle on the track ‘Sailing on the Seven Seas’. Everything else was made using synths, such as the Casio CZ230S and the extremely extensive usage of the Korg M1 workstation which was all the vogue at the time – not least as it was used in the Madonna track of the same name.

Released on May 7, 1991, Sugar Tax was a massive success for OMD and served up a plethora of listenable music treats which don’t sound dated today.

A particular highlight for me was Pandora’s Box – one of the best-known singles from the album and with an outstanding music video to go with it. Pandora’s Box was written about the life of the silent movie actress Louise Brooks and was named after the 1929 film, Pandora’s Box which she starred in.

The song deals with the less glamorous side of celebrity life and directly addresses how Louise Brooks went from being a megastar to obscurity, or as the video featuring clips from the film notes:

“Louise Brooks was born in Cherryvale, Kansas in 1906. While still in her teens, she became a silent movie star, captivating audiences with her naturalistic style and erotic beauty. When Louise was 21 years old, she appeared in the classic film “Pandoras Box”, which was later banned by Hitler as ‘degenerate art’.

“Louise valued her integrity more than her success and she paid the price for her independent spirit. Her career was brief but brilliant. She died in Rochester, New York, in 1985, alone.”

As well as the album, I’d recommend a listen of the B-Sides from that era too, particularly Area and All She Wants Is Everything – both available on Youtube.