Friday, June 1, 2018

New Order - Movement

Movement is New Order's first album, but it occupies an odd space. After Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980, the remaining members of Joy Divison were left with the decision to either call it a day or move on, opting for the latter, with Movement representing the band's growing pains. Essentially, Movement is a Joy Division album without Ian Curtis. Curtis' ghost haunts the album, and how couldn't it? He died just a year before, and the wounds hadn't closed. A handful of songs on the album directly reference him ("The Him," "I.C.B."), and with no clear frontman, Peter Hook spent much of his co-frontman duties trying to sound as much like Curtis as possible. (Bernard Sumner, for his part, sounded pretty much the same as he does now, just a lot younger.) I'm making it sound as if Movement isn't one of my favorite LPs of both JD and NO. Maybe I was in a transition phase and the LP just worked for me, but I've been defending this LP for years. I'm not sure why I've had to with songs like "Dreams Never End" rivaling anything in the two bands' catalog. New Order would, of course, go on to be less JD/Cure-ish and into the incredibly moribund dance band we all love, but Movement is the band's Rubber Soul, moving away from one era, but not yet immersed in the next.

The mood of the music is understandably bleak, given the proximity of its recording to Ian Curtis' death the year before. Part of this bleakness, however, stems from the aimlessness that came with Joy Division having lost its voice before New Order found its own. Movement is synth-heavy in the same way that the second half of Closer is: that is, the keyboard is a ponderous instrument with very little mobility that serves to create atmosphere more than to lead the melodic progression. One of the few songs that gives any hint of the New Order to come is the underrated fourth track "Chosen Time." The song is fast-moving, features Peter Hook's bass taking the dominant melodic role, and has the keyboard as a rhythmic motivator. The meaning behind the name "ICB" is that it's an abbreviation for "Ian Curtis Buried," which he most certainly was not at the time of the album's recording. Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner both ape Curtis' disaffected, isolated singing style throughout the course of the album. The way Sumner sings "Denial" sounds almost exactly like the way Ian Curtis sang "Wilderness" on Unknown Pleasures, and Hook's moody performance on the otherwise strong "Doubts Even Here" is aesthetic plagiarism.

The problem is this: on what should have been a transition album, there was no transition. New Order was still writing Joy Division songs without one of Joy Division's key elements, you know, Curtis. As a result, Movement does not really live up to its name. 

As a reviewer, these are the kind of things I'm supposed to point out and believe. I point them out dutifully, but I do not believe them; I do indeed love this album. Like The Cure's Seventeen Seconds, it just ends up an LP that I don't listen too very much.

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