Saturday, June 2, 2018

New Order

Power, Corruption and Lies (AM9), American Issue (includes "The Beach" and "Blue Monday")
Artist: New Order
Release: May 2, 1983
Label: Factory (Factus 12)
Producer: New Order
Length: 57:14
Tracks: 1) "Age of Consent" (5:16); 2) "We All Stand" (5:14); 3) "The Village" (4:37); 4) 5 8 6 (7:31); 5) Blue Monday (7:32); 6) "Your Silent Face" (6:00) 7) Ultraviolence (4:52); 8)"Ecstacy" (4:25); 9) "Leave Me Alone" (4:40); 10) "The Beach" (7:22)
Personnel: Bernard Sumner, vocals, guitars, melodica, synthesizers and programming; Peter Hook, 4- and 6-stringed bass, electronic percussion; Stephen Morris, drums, synthesizers and programming; Gillian Gilbert – synthesizers and guitars

Out of the ashes of Joy Division came New Order in the most seamlessly impressive musical reinvention in rock (outside of Bowie), but it wouldn't happen until their 2nd LP, Power, Corruption and Lies, an album which defines the synth-pop dynamic for the 80s. Though the sound is dominated by synthesizers and bass, Bernard Sumner's melodic and decidedly subdued vocals and guitar ensured that this record would be the most human synth-pop album of the era. Sumner may not have been anywhere near as mesmerizing as Ian Curtis, but New Order wasn't about that. New Order was the picture perfect team; a group in which each member was never above passing the ball, and no one ever dominated a song. Movement (AM7), with its dark, moody ambiguiety could be found virtually nowhere on Power, Corruption and Lies, the ideology was there and the lyrics were as profound (if understated) as ever (Pet Shop Boys come to mind), but this true 80s' expression through dance music, the precursor to EDM and rave and trip-hop, but with substance.  Joy Division invented Shoegaze and New Order abandoned it at its pinnacle.

Purists will insist that "The Beach" and "Blue Monday" do not belong (they are not on the UK release), but New Order was a band of excesses: excessive intros, excessive instrumental bridges, excessive counterpoint, and throughout their career (with the exception of Movement, which again is more of a Joy Division album in the way the Trick of the Tail emulates Peter Gabriel's Genesis), the philosophy was far from less is more; it was more is more, it was excess is more. Power, Corruption and Lies is the sign of a band coming into its own after great adversity.  The suicide of Ian Curtis was not just the loss of a lead singer for an underground powerhouse; for Sumner, Hook and Morris, it was the loss of a dear, troubled friend. New Order's first album Movement is a funereal, grim LP that shows the band had still not come to grips with this loss. Power, Corruption and Lies instead has become the most ripped off album of the decade, if not of all time, and one of the finest of the 80s.

Among the best, "We All Stand" is five minutes of pure electronic melancholia. "Your Silent Face" is ballad-esque and showcases New Order's penchant for subtle beauty among these synthesized dance tracks.  But the showcase tune, "Leave Me Alone" is pure, moody solitude. Bernard Sumner rolls the song along slowly at first, but the urgency in his voice elevates as his "character" becomes increasingly frustrated in his inability to escape the company of others. The lyrics keep in line with New Order’s usual sexual despondence:

From my head to my toes
To my teeth, through my nose,
You get these words wrong
You get these words wrong, every time,
You get these words wrong.
I just smile.