Continuing my semi-regular series of blogs where I write about 10 of my favourite songs from my favourite bands / artists. It was always going to be hard to narrow it down to only 10-songs from New Order!
New Order are like a perfect band for me. Through the 1980's they seemed lost in their own world, pop, but with a desire to experiment with sound and equipment. They could party hard, they were/are successful - but not too big. They had their own little club in Manchester that they could play (and pre Acid House they had to play to keep it running!). The band were all characters and attracted characters, Bernard Sumner had/has amazing hair, they had complete control of their music and art, they suffered heartache, they kept on going.
And they were/are gloriously imperfect. At times (most of the time) they didn't know how to work half the equipment they bought. Their manager (Rob Gretton) and label manager (Tony Wilson) were certainly characters but they also essentially bankrupted them. Despite the incredible journey they had been on, Hook and Sumner ended up hating each other. They (at least for a while) lost money on every 12-inch single of Blue Monday.
I got into the band around the release of 1993's Republic and the stunning single Regret, although I was well aware of them at the age of 14 in 1990 with the World Cup single World In Motion.
Discovering Substance was an eye opener, this was a band who did things their way. Non-album singles like Temptation! And as I dug through the bands 80's catalogue, I learned just how prolific they were; 5 studio albums, a staggering 19 singles and the aforementioned Substance compilation.
Can you imagine following New Order from the start through that decade and beyond?! What a journey.
I was too young for the 80's and even just a little young in 1993. They broke up after Republic, so it was amazing when they got back together to release Get Ready in 2001. I tried to catch them as many times as I could; taking in brilliant shows in Glasgow and Manchester over the years. Even post Hooky they played a blinding show at the Academy touring Music Complete, although it wasn't quite the same without him patrolling the stage. Whenever I saw them live, it was like the band had 2 frontmen.
Watching New Order live was a real sense of occasion. I met fellow fans who travelled across the country (and the world) to follow them. The level of passion and dedication they inspire is incredible.
Hooky's love of New Order (and Joy Division) shines through in his books and his endless run of shows where he performs their back catalogue. I do wish that he and the rest of the band could make up, even for a one-off show. Sadly, I don't think I'll see that happen.
Narrowing down my favourite New Order songs to only 10 was very tough. I do love later day singles like Crystal (what a comeback single, all hooks and chorus and more hooks!) and Krafty, but not enough to make my top 10.
Two songs from Technique are included, but they could easily be replaced by any other 2 of that album on another day; particularly All The Way and Round & Round.
And Face Up has become a real favourite of mine since seeing Hooky perform it at the Glasgow School of Art a few years back, but it just couldn't quite squeeze into my top 10.
Love Vigilantes became a real favourite for a long time after I travelled down to see them in Manchester and they opened the show with it. And then there is True Faith! And Blue Monday may be New Order's most famous song and I love when they play it live, or in days gone by I loved hearing it in a club or pre-club, but it probably wouldn't be in my top 15 favourites. I can't remember the last time I played it.
So, after careful consideration, here are my;
10 favourite New Order songs.
One of my all-time favourite intro's. The synths burst in and cut to guitar a couple of times before both then crash into bass and drums, with Hooky leading the way. I love Bernard's vocals on this one, the production is sublime, everything sounds effortless.
Maybe I've forgotten the name and the address
Of everyone I've ever known, it's nothing I regret
The Perfect Kiss - Substance Edit
An 8-minute epic electro pop gem. Hooky's bass sounds like he could be in Level 42 at the start, then there is an immediate change in pace and a sublime programmed electronic groove kicks in before heavenly synths create a pure hands-in-the-air feel after 1-minute 19 seconds.
Sumner's lyrics are playful, none more so than the second verse;
I have always thought about
Staying in and going out
Tonight I should have stayed at home
Playing with my pleasure zone
The way New Order use the 8-minutes to play and stretch this song out is pure brilliance. The breakdown (complete with frog sounds) is beautifully chilled before the beats kick in and take the song to conclusion with powerful synth stabs and Hooky going for it on bass. Glorious!
I've included the official video and also a brilliant 1985 performance from Toronto with Bernard on cowbell wearing shorts, sports socks and slip ons!
Your Silent Face
The first time I heard this was when New Order played the Barrowland Ballroom in 2001. I was absolutely blown away, the synths, Sumner's delivery, humour and just the way the band looked and sounded. They knew full well what a f**king masterpiece they were performing.
And of course I was taken by surpise and delight by the audience participation after Sumner's delivery of the line; you caught me at a bad time so why don't you ... and a large section of the crowd yelled PISS OFF.
Their return that year with the Crystal single and a burst of shows led me to properly explore their back catalogue as I tracked down vinyl albums and singles in second hand record shops across Glasgow and on eBay. Power, Corruption & Lies is probably my favourite New Order album, although I think Technique is the best.
What an incredible debut single! When Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980, shortly before an American tour that was set to break them, the rest of the band had a number of choices to make.
Numb with grief, the band went in to rehearse, Sumner and Hook have both said in their books that they just didn't know what else to do. No-one wanted to be the singer, but Sumner ended up taking vocal duties and just over 2-months after Ian Curtis' death, the new trio of Sumner, Hook and Morris (that night going under the name The No Names after Factory band The Names pulled out) played a 4 or 5 song set - no-one can quite remember.
Ceremony was in the set and it has been ever since.
Sumner, Morris and Hook sound as tight as tight can be, but in a beautiful loose way, threatening to fall apart or push further forwards, it sounds slightly chaotic in a glorious way. Sumner tears into his guitar at times and creates a playful yet simple riff at others, Hooky plays his bass way down, Morris is sensational with his beats.
When the band tear back into it at 2-minutes 30 seconds it is the sound of a band on fire. Then we have a sublime extended breakdown and then a glorious blast for a 30-second finale.
Check the ferocious Joy Division version
Oh I'll break them down, no mercy shown
Heaven knows it's got to be this time
Age of Consent
The opening track on the sublime Power, Corruption & Lies album, Age of Consent would most probably have been a single if New Order were not sticking to their no singles on album rule.
Hooky's bass grooves throughout, Sumner's guitar is playful, his lyrics tell a tale, the beat and hi-hats are relentless and at a couple of points the synths threaten to delightfully overpower everything else.
Sumner admits he's not a certain type and then admits he has lost, letting out delightful yelps over an extended outro as the band just let rip.
I'm the kind that likes to tell you
Just what I want to do
I'm not the kind that need to tell you
I've lost you, I've lost you, I've lost you
Bernard picks beautiful riffs on a 12-string acoustic, Hooky's bass grooves throughout, there is a slice of euphoric electric guitar, Sumner's vocal melody is (for me) one of his best - just flowing effortlessly and everything just feels so natural.
One of their very best outro's ... and there are many to choose from.
New Order love intro's and outro's, often having 2 or 3 sections to each. With Vanishing Point the band use the first 90-seconds to display musical brilliance, Sumner is also on top form with his lyrics and delivery. There is a sense of hurt and anger to them.
My life ain't no holiday
I've been through the point of no return
I've seen what the man can do
I've seen all the hate of a woman too
The breakdown at 3-minutes 30-seconds lasts a full half minute before the band explode back in with the chorus. A stunning song that really captures the band at their very best.
Thieves Like Us (12-inch version)
Thieves Like Us grooves and is beautifully lazily euphoric in a way that I don't think any other band could achieve. Released in 1984, Thieves Like Us really highlights how New Order had developed as a band, their self production of this song is just blissful, the long, long intro is split into 3 parts, with the second synth riff starting at 1-minute, then Hooky taking over on bass just before the 2-minute mark. Eventually Bernard comes in, singing now you live your life like a shadow, in the pouring rain before pushing his range gloriously by singing
Oh it's called love
And it belongs to us
Before a short second verse where he sings;
I've lived my life in the valleys
I've lived my life in the hills
I've lived my life on alcohol
I've lived my life on pills
Thieves Like Us grooves and is beautifully lazily euphoric in a way that I don't think any other band could achieve.
Bizarre Love Triangle (Shep Pettibone 12-inch version)
This song takes me places. When New Order play this live it makes me very, very happy. Full of loads of different synth riffs, stabs and flourishes, this is New Order at their very, very best.
Every time I see you falling
I get down on my knees and pray
I'm waiting for that final moment
You say the words that I can't say
The 7-inch version is a rush, the 12-inch version just takes that rush and keeps it going.
As perfect as a song can be. The original version just about holds itself together and is all the more beautiful for it. Lyrically brilliant; exceptionally poetic in the verse, then simplistic and playful at times but also full of meaning, easy to relate to.
Up, down, turn around
Please don't let me hit the ground
Tonight I think I'll walk alone
I'll find my soul as I go home
It blows my mind that this was released in 1982. Can you imagine being in your mid-late teens or early 20's when this came out! So fresh, energetic and utterly stupendous?!
You can hear the band shouting to each other when you listen to the epic 8-minute 41 second original as they tear into a groove, before dropping to all Sumner to start with the beautiful;
Oh you've got green eyes
Oh you've got blue eyes
Oh you've got grey eyes
And I've never met anyone quite like you before
After some stunning bass work from Peter Hook, the synth is allowed to just bubble gloriously for a little before Sumner comes in again, his voice rising with emotion.
A heaven, a gateway, a hope
Just like a feeling inside, it's no joke
Sumner's guitar is punky Chic-esque rhythm at times, then picking brilliant little riffs at others. The synth and the beats are steady, Hook meanders up and down his bass with delight.
Each way I turn, I know I'll always try
To break the circle that's been placed around me
Temptation is a top 3 all-time favourite song of mine. I originally heard a rerecorded version on Substance and on the Trainspotting soundtrack, but then I discovered the original on an Italian 1981-82 EP and the rawness just blew me away.