Geek Out: A New Order for New Order Fans
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 11, 2008
I used to think that the day would never come
New Order are one of the greatest bands of all-time. They’re also one of the most heavily compiled, their 25+ year-long discography inspiring a seemingly endless stream of attempts to aurally pay tribute to their greatness. There’s Substance, of course, the 1987 double-LP assemblage of all their 12″s up to that point (including the b-sides on CD) and probably their most famous and well-loved musical document. There’s (The Best Of) New Order, the 1995 compilation intended as a compliment to Substance, including more of their late-80s/early-90s work and only overlapping with Substance on new edits of a couple tracks. Both are essential New Order documents. Less so are (The Rest of) New Order, the band’s largely useless remix collection, Retro, the band’s thoroughly incomprehensive and depressingly underwhelming four-disc box set, and Singles, the band’s completely superfluous third Best Of. Oh wait, fourth, I forgot about International. Don’t even ask about that one.
Point is, it would seem like the band needed no further tampering with its back catalogue. That’s not entirely true, though, since the band’s albums–you know, those 40-50 minute-long things where so many of those nifty songs originally came from–were in desparate need of revival. For despite their staggeringly impressive singles resume, New Order were also an incredibly underrated albums band, with no less than three stone classics, and with a solid run of second-tier LPs as well. And now Rhino has had the good sense to repackage the band’s first five, Factory-era albums–none of which are officially out of print, but many of which have largely since disappeared from CD shelves–with bonus discs of goodies from the albums’ time period that did not appear on the original albums.
Of course, this idea was much better when I envisioned it six years ago as The Perfect Kiss: A Monument to New Order, my 16-disc tribute to the band including all of the band’s albums, with the songs from their respective periods sprinkled around them, as well as a number of discs consisting of super-rarities, live tracks, remixes, covers, and other good stuff. But hey, it’s a start. And in case you’re wondering which of these, if any, you actually need, here’s how I break it down, one time:
- Movement. Despite what a couple fanboys may insist, the band’s 1981 debut album is largely a miserable, gruesome chore of an affair, spare the slightly foreshadowing “Chosen Time” and the surprisingly sprightly “Dreams Never End.” However, when assembled, all the stuff that didn’t make the cut for Movement would have made for one of the most auspicious debuts of the 80s, songs like “Ceremony,” “Temptation,” “Hurt” and “Procession” remaining among the group’s all-time classics. Of course, all those songs can be found on Substance, which should be your first New Order purchase no matter what. What can’t be found on Substance (but can be found re-issued here), however, are “Mesh,” the group’s lost classic from the period (not the mislabeled “Cries and Whispers” from disc 2 of Substance), and the original version of “Temptation,” the group’s best song. Worth investigating for those two alone.
- Power, Corruption & Lies. My personal favorite of the band’s, an emotionally stunning, ingeniously structured, shimmering synth-pop gem that permanently lifted the group out from under the weight of Ian Curtis’s suicide. The re-issue removes “Blue Monday” from the track list (it was never on the UK edition) and puts it on the bonus disc, which is a shame, since the song still makes the most sense as PC&L’s center-piece. Besides that, all the songs on the bonus disc, though largely brilliant (“Confusion,” “Lonesome Tonight,” “Thieves Like Us”) can be found on Substance, save the original version of “Confusion,” which is good but probably inferior to the Substance edit. Only worth purchasing if you’ve never heard the album before, in which case you better have bolted for your local CD store by the end of this sentence.
- Low-Life. The most consistent of the bunch, and by far the group’s most confident, comfortable album, though possibly with lower highs than PC&L. Why “Lonesome Tonight,” “Murder” and “Theives Like Us” would make more sense on the bonus disc here, which instead features three of the band’s least memorable singles (“Subculture,” “Shellshock” and “State of the Nation”), which together make up the final corner to the home-stretch of Substance. You get a couple of unimpressive rarities with “Salvation Theme” and “Dub-Vulture,” and “Let’s Go,” which is pretty good, but available on (The Best Of) New Order. The main draw here is the 17-minute version of the album’s breathtaking emotional low-end “Elegia,” which somehow doesn’t end up as amazingly epic as you think it would. Once again, only for those who haven’t heard the album before.
- Brotherhood. The band’s most enigmatic album, somehow both simultaneously underrated and overrated. Essential nonetheless if only for “Bizarre Love Trinagle,” possibly the most perfect pop song of the 80s, and interesting for the band’s first true ventures away from the post-punk/synth-pop molds. The bonus disc contains another version of “State of the Nation,” for some reason, but also has the little-heard 12″ version of forgotten classic “Touched By the Hand of God,” as well as the excellent “Blue Monday” remixes “Blue Monday ’88” and “Beach Buggy,” as well as “Evil Dust,” the superior version of Brotherhood‘s “Angel Dust.” Definitely worth buying, especially if you don’t have (The Best Of) New Order yet.
- Technique. Many a fan’s favorite NO album, and indeed a great one, the band’s much-ballyhooed Ibiza record that most end up remembering better for the contemplative, guitar-led songs that showed that Bernard Sumner hadn’t turned into a completely shitty lyricsit just yet. The bonus disc here would be viewed by most as the least essential, since by this point in their career New Order stopped paying as much care to their non-album material, but you still get the little heard apocalypse anthem “Don’t Do It,” the deleted 12″ version of “Run 2,” and something called the Cabinieri Mix (never heard this one, I’m ashamed to say) of the band’s amazingly WTF World Cup anthem “World in Motion.” For the New Order fan who (thinks he) has everything, you could do a whole lot worse.
Here’s hoping Rhino gets around to reappropriating the band’s cruelly misunderstood should-have-been-swansong Republic at some point, and then deletes the depressing Get Ready and the utterly horrific Waiting for the Sirens’ Call from press alotgether.