Album Remasters - New Order Album Review
After the brace of Joy Division re-issues last year, it seems only right that the most influential band out of Manchester (just nudging The Smiths and The Chameleons into runners-up places) during the 80's should get a re-visit. The lack of unreleased rarities available by a band notoriously candid about their output doesn't make these releases any more desirable apart from the sheer quality of the music contained within them.
"Movement" was a hard album to make for several personal reasons and it shows. Barely audible lyrics, understated melodies and a chilling, stark production by the Spector of the North, Martin Hannett. Much of the album only hints at the electronic path the band were to take - "Truth" and "Doubts Even Here" are moody and desolate, "Dreams Never End" and "Chosen Time" the most upbeat. For me the album's centrepiece is the desperate "The Him" and shows how New Order brought the old and the new sounds to the party. But the real quality appears on the extra disc. Tony Wilson knew his shit when he declared that "Everything's Gone Green" was a more important record than "Blue Monday" - yes it was, no argument. It is still the chattering, unsettling beast it was in 1982 and 26 years later still sounds far fresher than any so-called Indie-dance 12" then and now - again Hannett smearing his clever paws all over the initial production (only for Hannett to fall asleep during the mixing and the band coming to the rescue). The under-rated "Procession" also sits proudly amongst fine company here as well as 2 versions of "Ceremony"
Power, Corruption & Lies
But it was their next collection that elevated NO to new giddy heights of respect and fervour amongst rock-heads and students alike and this was their untapped secret - their fans seemed to represent many walks of life including the States. "Power, Corruption & Lies" probably bears the most varied fruit out of all of their albums - "Age Of Consent" is urgent and shows an increased confidence in Bernard Sumner plus a sublime little melody played by Gillian Gilbert. The one downbeat moment comes from the rather dour "We All Stand" but the remainder of this set shows a band starting to really go places and throwing off the JD shackles once and for all. The extra disc gathers the club hits "Confusion" and "The Beach" plus the rather pretty single, "Thieves Like Us". Of course, "Blue Monday" makes its appearance here and still sounds like nothing else from that era and considering it was spawned from a jam session it more than justifies its legend of losing thruppence for every copy sold.
The machines on PC&L were changed for a less jagged sound for "Low-Life" and its subsequent batch of singles. Shock-horror, The Perfect Kiss" was an album track AND a single and thank God - even NO realised that TPK was their most potent song yet and so stuck it in both market places. Ironically, it stalled just outside the Top 40 while the album shifted vat-loads and deservedly so. It is the nearest to a perfect album the band have released to date since there are no filler tracks from start to finish. "Love Vigilantes" is Sumner-sings-folkpop, "Sunrise" is a soundtrack intro with a full-on pumping Steven Morris work-out and "Elegia" is one of the greatest instrumentals ever created by human beings full-stop. "Sooner Than You Think" and "Face-Up" could have been singles while the disco-schmaltz of "Sub-Culture" pissed all over the rather ropey Robie rework that adorned a 12" release later that year. The extra disc is a mixed affair but holds a few genuine rarities in its favour - 2 tracks from the hard-to-find "Salvation" soundtrack (shame the label failed to include all 6 contributions!) plus the 17 minute version of "Elegia" (originally included on the extra disc with the Retro box set) and the pointless "Dubvulture".
"Brotherhood" was considered a let-down after the perfection of LL but its fault lies partly with the running order I think. Side one doesn't really get going (save for "Weirdo") so it was down to side two to kick things off. "Bizarre Love Triangle" has always been a firm fan favourite and yet bombed when it was released as a single. How could pop-perfection nose-dive so spectacularly? Try the next song, "All Day Long" - surely another single but then what would have been the point? The light-hearted "Every Second Counts" finished off a rather mixed bag of music although "Paradise" and "As It Was...." stand up better now than in 1986. The album may have benefitted from including another of their better singles from this era, "Touched By The Hand Of God" instead of "Broken Promise". But its all academic and adding singles to an album would have been a cop out - it is what it is....an OK New Order album.
And so to the heady daze of the Rave era in and around every town and city in Britain - none more so than Manchester where scallies and socialites came together for one very hedonistic party. NO also embraced the culture but flew it out to Ibiza to make an album with it. "Technique" saw the band make a decent album (while their Factory friends shook their heads at the cost). Many argue that this was a sell-out collection of tracks and featured too many dance tracks over guitar tracks. Clearly these critics had missed the point of New Order - just listen to their 12" singles and the people who mixed and played them. Arthur Baker, John Robie, Mark Kamins, Arthur Russell, Studio 54 and just about every DJ worth a penny gave them exposure both at home and abroad. Their final Factory album contains at least 5 worthy classics especially "Mr Disco" which just begged to be a single ahead of the costly "Run 2". "Vanishing Point" is represented by its vocal album version and the almost superior theme version on the extra disc while lead-off single, "Fine Time / Line " is here in 3 mixes. It is a veritable set of tracks and is probably the best value for money out of the 5 re-releases on offer. However, all of them serve a purpose and that is to highlight just how one of Britain's most inventive bands has progressed and developed since 1981.
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