With the release of their first studio album in a decade, another line up change and a Liverpool date set for November, Getintothis’ resident superfan Del Pike picks New Order’s Top Ten.
New Order, the band that very nearly wasn’t. Salvaged from the ashes of Joy Division, existing only out of tragedy; how ironic then that in the 35 years that followed they have created some of the most uplifting synth-pop imaginable.
When Ian Curtis took his life in 1980, Joy Division were on the brink of potential super stardom. Due to set off on their first U.S Tour, Ian’s demons became too much for him and he ended his days in the kitchen of his small Macclesfield home. Remaining members Bernard (Barney) Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris needed to keep the band going but who could possibly replace the enigmatic Ian Curtis? In 1981, New Order emerged, vocal duties went to Sumner and Morris’s girlfriend Gillian Gilbert took her place behind keyboards.
Almost 35 years later New Order are still with us. There have been two break ups and subsequent reformations and some minor line-up changes have occurred with Gillian leaving the band after 2001’s Get Ready album and Peter Hook leaving (for good?) following their most recent Waiting for the siren’s call album (2005). Now after a ten year hiatus Gillian has returned and here’s the news… they are back with a new studio album; Music Complete is due out on September 25.
The band have not always had the upbeat sound that has been exemplified in such big hits as World in Motion, Bizarre love triangle and True Faith, far from it. Their 1981 debut album Movement is as beautifully funereal as much of Joy Division’s output. It may have taken a while for some die hard JD fans to adapt to Sumner on the mic, but before long New Order found their niche with a string of classic singles in the early 80s including Temptation, Confusion and the phenomenal Blue Monday. It was Blue Monday that really got New Order heard outside of the ranks of the trenchcoat brigade and more accessible tunes would emerge and start bothering the charts as the 80s moved into their second act.
Alongside the success of New Order another story was unfolding. Anthony H Wilson, known to Granada TV Viewers as Tony Wilson, was as colourful a figure as the band themselves. Responsible in the late 70s for introducing The Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, The Jam and subsequently Joy Division to Manchester via his late night TV music show So it Goes, he also had a side-line in promotions with his Hacienda nightclub on Whitworth St, Manchester and his own Factory record label of whom Joy Division and New Order where their most prolific signings. He would go on to manage Happy Mondays with wondrously disastrous consequences. When Wilson tragically died in 2007, he had successfully changed the face of British music, promotion, clubbing and publication forever.
The Tony Wilson story has been told so many times in countless books and also in Michael Winterbottom’s excellent 24 Hour Party People (2002) with Steve Coogan playing the man himself.
New Order continued into the 90s with a move that was totally unexpected from their fans. Teaming up with comedian Keith Allen and the English football squad, they were singing for England with World in Motion to tie in with the World Cup. Whilst undoubtedly rousing and the anthem of that summer, it now jars a little with the otherwise sure-footed releases of their canon.
The acid tinged Technique album, recorded in the Med and released in 1989 had brought a new luvved up audience to New Order and they now had football crowds to contend with. Released in 1993, Republic was a much more sober affair and seen as a comeback after a brief break up and the controversial move from Factory to London Records. Its lead single Regret was a big hit, reaching No 4 in the UK chart.
Their output has been sporadic since then with only Get Ready and …Siren’s Call in the interim. Other projects have taken up their time, notably Sumner’s team up with Johnny Marr for Electronic, Hooky formed two bands Monaco and Revenge, with only the former managing to bother the charts with What do you want from me in 1987 and the now married Gillian and Steve had a minor side project with the imaginatively named The Other Two. Recently Hooky has been performing classic Joy Division and New Order albums in their entirety to rapturous crowds across the world under the auspicious title, The Light.
With new material looming we offer up our tribute of the best Top Ten songs (so far) from what might be the world’s greatest synth pop group – ever.
10. New Dawn Fades (feat. Moby) from Twenty Four Hour Party People soundtrack (2003)
This live version of the Joy Division classic could very well improve ever so slightly on the original Unknown Pleasures track (Sue me!). The searing guitars that open this beautiful version cannot help to send shivers down the spine of every JD/NO fan. Tony Wilson was allegedly surprised to hear it on the soundtrack to Michael Mann’s 1995 cop thriller, Heat.
9. Crystal from Get Ready (2001)
One of many comeback singles, this offering from the under-rated rock edged Get Ready album has one of the best riffs to ever grace the singles chart with Bernard Sumner’s sublime whisper; “We’re like Crystal” opening up a vast soundscape to die for. The brilliant music video features a pseudo band of long haired kids, The Killers miming to the track; unsurprisingly the name was then taken as a tribute to the band by ermmmm The Killers actually.
8. Regret from Republic (1993)
One of the most irresistible singles from the band found them miming in a surreal promotional exercise for Top of the Pops on Baywatch’s sun-drenched Californian beach, with The Hoff himself. One of the key singles of 1993 from the Republic album and the band’s first 90s hit. A significant change in style for New Order. This Top of the Pops clip is much more entertaining than the actual video.
7. Ceremony – from Substance (1987)
Their debut single from 1981 marks a steady transition from Joy Division to New Order with the expected funereal atmosphere and lyrics by Ian Curtis, but with shimmering clues as to what was to come. A firm favourite with true band aficionados, anyone in doubt of Sumner as a vocalist could rest easy after this majestic release. Hit Youtube to hear Radiohead’s more than respectful cover.
6. Temptation from Substance (1987)
Probably best remembered by some for its inspired inclusion in Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting. This seminal New Order single from 1982 is one of the most beautiful pop singles ever, an unashamed love song for all. “No I’ve never met anyone quite like you before.
5. Elegia (Full Version) from Retro (2002)
Oh good lord! Just listening to this again cannot help but bring those goosebumps leaping out from the back of your arms. Hidden away on the essential New Order box set Retro, this 17 minute version of the much briefer Low-life instrumental from 1985 is an example of how repetition can be a wonderful thing. Slowly building up to a series of crescendos this track amounts to a semi religious experience, we kid thee not.
4. Shellshock from Substance (1987)
For anyone old enough to remember the long hot summer of ’86, this along with The Smiths’ Bigmouth Strikes Again and Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach would form the perfect soundtrack to a mis-spent youth. If you are not old enough, listen to Shellshock and you’ll understand. Magnificent.
3. The Him from Movement (1981)
Purists would clearly argue that New Order’s 1981 debut album is their finest hour (and T shirt) and they might be right. A million light years from World in Motion this funeral procession of an album is the closest to Joy Division as you will find them. Produced by legendary JD knob twiddler Martin Hannett, it is an album from which it is difficult to select a stand out track as the whole disc is breath-taking. The Him is perhaps the most typical of the era. Dark, mysterious and otherworldly.
2. True Faith from Substance (1987)
The most typical of New Order’s stream of unstoppable mid 80s singles, True Faith also provided one of the most aired music videos to date, courtesy of French choreographer Phillipe Decoufl’e, featuring ridiculously garbed human weebles and freakshow acrobats. A monumental music video and another classic pop single for New Order.
1. Blue Monday from Substance (1987)
We know, we know, It’s so obvious it hurts but there is no denying the importance and stature of this classic single. New Order’s defining moment, the best-selling 12” single ever, the single whose Peter Saville sleeve cost so much to produce it was sold at a loss, the story goes on. Every indie club worth its salt had a copy of this back in 1983 and it is still being played to this day. Come on… you know the words… “How does it feel…”
And in anticipation of the new material…
Previews of the new album suggest that New Order have gone back to their 80s style somewhat, there is no mistaking that classic New Order sound in these two clips.
See Patrick’s recent GIT blog for details of their gig at Liverpool’s Olympia.
New Order’s back catalogue is readily available or just have yourself a youtube party courtesy of getintothis.