In tribute to New Order’s impending performance at the Forbidden Fruit Festival here in rain-sodden Dublin – which I’m fortunate enough to attending this evening. Instead of selecting tracks piecemeal and inserting them into the Essential Sounds Series, a theme which could conceivably go on for decades into my old age if I don’t come up with some new ideas fairly soon, the timing felt right to finally compile a list of my favourite tracks by the influential Mancunian outfit before i find myself lost and confused in the musical desert of middle age wondering why my taste has abandoned me and the cruel realization that the word hip would now suggest not transient cultural knowledge of youth but the looming possibility of hip replacement.
So, rather than compile a High Fidelity-esque top 10 to make this easily digestible, tagworthy and possibly easier to discover on any world-wide web search function, I will instead journey chronologically through the bands recorded output, throwing together a mixture of singles and album tracks.
I’ve passionately enthused about this song before on the blog back in December 2010 but the bands first single which charted at a lowly 34 on the UK Singles chart back in March of 1981 retains its life affirming restorative powers even after countless listens.
Written as a Joy Division track, the words written by Ian Curtis and filtered through Bernard Sumner‘s suitably hesitant vocals view an impending union; the onset of domesticity, routine, real love with both trepidation and elation. God, Peter Hook‘s opening bass line breaks me every time.
Dreams Never End (1981)
The opening cut from Movement, the band’s debut with a rare Peter Hook lead vocal. Maintaining the propulsive, wiry guitar attack of Ceremony, Hook does a decent Curtis imitation in this raw, fizzy rocker, pointing the way forward for a brighter, purposeful less fatalistic future for the band.
Another stand alone single and the first steps to defining the New Order sound; synthetic and organic, ecstatic and melancholic. Sumners vocals are more sure yet still refreshingly wan as he recounts an end of night post pub/club odyssey filled with maudlin romantic and sexual longing familiar to most of us.
Drum machines, sequencers buzz with the echo of Moroder and Kraftwerk and transform these former doom laden prophets of post punk gloom to the forefront of hedonistic, pan sexual club culture.
Your Silent Face (1983)
Deadpan electronic folk existentialism anyone? The bands were now mastering their technology, fusing the old and new methods with skill and grace on their second album Power, Corruption and Lies.
Wearing their Germanic influences on their sleeve and yet creating a hypnotic distillation of both man and machine without sacrificing those essential human elements of warmth or humour.
Leave Me Alone (1983)
The closing number from Power, Corruption and Lies serves as a reminder of their roots and highlights the bands bipolar tendencies, often hopping back and forth between their electronic selves and a more pure guitar/pop style on their albums.
At this stage, Martin Hannett was no longer guiding the band as producer as they gained more confidence in the studio but this track harks back to the Joy Division Hannett era with the powerful rhythm section, mechanical concise drum beats, a melodic bass line dovetailing with brittle, refined guitar melodies with only Sumner’s aching, vulnerable vocals marking it as a New Order track.
Gillian Gilbert, who joined the group as keyboardist in 1980, added a vital feminine element that counterbalanced the pulsing testosterone of a male dominated line up but here she is absent and the song is a monument of herculean young male self-pity but no less brilliant and moving for that.
Age of Consent (1983)
Infusing their pop side with the repetitive motion of dance music and finally express their inner joy.
Love Vigilantes (1985)
Continuing where Age of Consent left off, Love Vigilantes from 1985’s Low Life retains that tracks vibrant musicality and wraps it around a poignant tale of a soldier at war in a far off land aching for his family and his homeland. Here, the band now blurring the line between their dock and dance personas adding a twinge of country or folk to the mix.
Face Up (1985)
I’m choosing this album track over the more well-known single The Perfect Kiss because well, its wide-eyed vitality makes me feel giddy and lovesick all at once.
From my favourite New Order record, the more guitar heavy Brotherhood, this moody number almost makes New Order sound sexy The sound of a band in full command of their musical and sonic gifts.
All Day Long (1986)
Having said that, the use of synthesizers is still quite prominent and here they achieve a majesty of sound that incorporates all of their apparent disparity with ease forging a moving elegy to what exactly? Urban alienation, relationship abuse, deprivation, lost innocence or maybe none of those things. Only Sumner knows.
Bizarre Love Triangle (1986)
Quintessential New Order. This is another piece of perfect pop yearning. Several versions or mixes exist but all still contain that spine tingling synth and bass crescendo that simply melts your stony cynical heart.
True Faith (1987)
In which New Order beat their closest sonic rivals at the time, The Pet Shop Boys at their own game with a towering glacial construction of electronic pop melancholy. The sound of liberation tinged with a potent undertow of resignation.
Love Less (1989)
A somewhat downcast, acoustically flavoured kiss off to a former lover that sounds quite sparse when compared to other tracks such as Fine Time and Round and Round on their Ibiza influenced 1989 album Technique but it’s a perfect example of how the bands seemingly effortless tracks are often their most effective.
And finally…well not finally but this is where it all started for me. My love affair with New Order and probably their last great single. The band was now at their musical peak technically and mainstream acceptance was now a given.
But just as it appeared that this wonderful single and the middling album from which it came Republic would take them to a new level of success, the band split and Regret seemed like as fitting a send off as any; a touching reflection on past decisions filled with yearning for a future with more substance.
A life beyond the fickle, treacherous world of pop. And yet…
Close Range (2001)
There was still some inspiration left. Reforming in 1998, it took them three years to finally release their comeback album Get Ready and it was somewhat dismissedcritically and commercially at the time but i consider it a solid, if not great and undervalued New Order album where they show the 21st century new kids – who were now brashly declaring their love of all things Joy Division,New Order, New Wave and Post Punk – how it’s done.
Turn My Way (2001)
Billy Corgans involvement dates it a bit of course but it’s a surprisingly effective collaboration, both parties complimenting each other. Corgan had already displayed his New Orders influences quite explicitly on Adore, The Smashing Pumpkins doomed electronically styled follow-up to their seismic multi million seller Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness.
Here, once again they make the banal sound beautiful.
So no Blue Monday, Perfect Kiss, Shellshock, Crystal, Subculture, Weirdo, State of the Nation, Touched by the Hand of God, Thieves Like Us, Round and Round, Run, World in Motion?
Tell me. What is your favourite New Order track?