New Order were formed out of the ashes of Joy Division, after singer Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980. Bernard Sumner took over the singing duties and the group became New Order, forging a successful musical career in a much lighter musical context. Not that Joy Division was forgotten, more so that they were massively influential, as was New Order.
This is a compilation. It’s no ordinary compilation however. This has all their singles and B-Sides to the year 1987. Let’s take a chance to listen to it, although it is over two hours in length.
We begin with the lone bass playing of Ceremony which sounds a lot like Joy Division did, or Public Image Ltd. for the matter. A fairly catchy guitar part then comes in. The singing is unfortunately swallowed up by the mix, but still, it is a refreshing and good listen. New Order were intentionally on a musical mission, warts and all. It’s simple and enjoyable. It is fairly minimal in terms of sound, too.
Next is the very 1980s sounding Everything’s Gone Green which is far more electronic sounding. There is a twangy Fender Stratocaster like chord progression here as well. Clearly, these guys were excellent musicians. It does sound very much like a mainstream sort of music from the era of Thatcherism in the group’s home country. Still, it is a good step in a lighter direction away from Joy Division, although Bernard Sumner sings a lot like Ian Curtis here. There are mechanical drum beats and interesting textures here. Great stuff. It goes into an instrumental section towards the end which is unique. The outro in particular is very trippy.
Temptation begins with some harmonies, before going into a piece that is more typical of New Order. It’s dated in its sound, but hey, it is easily overlooked here. The singing invokes inspired and personal lyrics are here and deals with relationship issues. The harmonies bridge the different sections of the music. No longer excessively dark and miserable, this music bridges the gap between the post punk music of Joy Division and the Acid House later on in the decade. Great stuff. It’s over seven minutes, but still sounds very good. Lyrics about perception are here, too. A very intelligent piece of music, well done New Order. Some frenetic melodies are played throughout.
Blue Monday comes next, with its perfect beats, Acid House sounding melody and pop sensibility. It’s another lengthy piece, yet here you can listen to why this was their most popular piece. It goes into a brilliant instrumental section with bass guitar and an array of sounds and textures. This is an amazing tune. It just sounds near perfect. The singing then arrives, with Bernard Sumner singing about relationship problems. It’s not depressing, it is in fact an inspirational piece that is uplifting. Various sounds that will melt your mind are here. Not bad sounding at all, especially considering the technology of the time. “How does it feel, when your heart grows cold?” is the last line here, a sharp attack on a lover. Great tune. Some great drum machine breakbeats are at the end here. A brilliant piece of art.
Next is the catchy Confusion which is a great and danceable piece. There are a lot of percussive sound effects here, along with some classic melodies. This track is really good. It goes into a super hyper machine drum break, it must be heard to be appreciated. Then Bernard Sumner sings into a vocoder, and some guitar riffs enter. Some introspective lyrics about how one feels is here as well. It’s likely the drum sounds here in particular have inspired people after, such as The Chemical Brothers. It sounds amazing, and is a strong argument for the music here. There is some great chanting which is brilliant.
Next is Thieves Like Us – 12″ Extended which is a very, very catchy piece to listen to. It starts off with simple beats, before going into a funky, melodic piece that is energetic. It goes into various musical breakdowns, all delivered with style and intelligence. It’s a refreshing listen. Bernard Sumner then sings about relationships again, in a pessimistic way. Still, it’s a much less intensely depressing listen than any track by Joy Division. A great listen all the same. This goes to show the consistency of New Order as a group. Brilliantly done. “Love is the only thing worth living for,” is sung here, a profound lyrical point. A magical listen of sorts here, just amazing. It fades out into oblivion.
The Perfect Kiss – Substance Edit comes next, with some electronic tom-tom sounds and interesting percussion before going into a set of heavily electronic sounds, with awesome beats. It then has a combined set of melodies, before singing a song about love. It’s a very good listen, with subtle guitars and intricate melodies. It’s more song like than previous efforts on this album. Profound and beautiful listening. A brilliant song and a great piece to listen to. It goes into a strangely distorted fuzz instrument (either guitar or piano) whilst drum beats and textures melt your mind and win your heart over. Some reversed frog croaking is here, before more percussion and melodies return. The instrumental part of the track then plays on, all the way to the outro.
Sub-culture – Substance Edit begins with electronic drum rolls before some funky melodies enter the picture, along with some female backing singers. This is likely about the Hacienda led Acid House scene that these guys developed musically, which you can hear here. It is a shorter piece than usual, being around four minutes long. It’s a thoughtful and inspired listening experience. Some interesting pounding electronic drum sounds are here. An excellent listen, very refreshing. It goes into a very surprising set of breakdowns.
The next piece is Shellshock – John Robie Remix; Substance Edit which starts with a simple digital melody and some interesting Roland drum machine noises. Other melodies emerge, show the brilliance of this piece on a sonic level. Breakbeats and chanted vocals then come in, making this a very good listen, and groundbreaking in many ways. It has a very Disco music feel to it, surprisingly. The lyrics deal with the shellshock at hand, with some clever looping and brilliant sonic parts that make this track legendary. Brilliant. Some masterful digital editing is here, showing the world of music that computers can be a friend, not an enemy. The chamted chorus lyrics repeat to the end, with some electronic trickery added in for good measure.
Next after that is State Of The Nation. It’s a proto-Acid House tune, with funky guitar and its title may refer to the legacy of Thatcherism in the UK. Margaret Thatcher was very divisive, yet the longest serving Prime Minister of the UK. Still, this is a good piece and the lyrics here are excellent. It is not as good as some of the tracks before it, but still fits nicely on this compilation. Turns out mainstream music can be indirectly political, too. It has a sense of urgency in the melodies here, too. There are some great TB 303 like melody lines towards the end, along with some fuzz guitar.
Bizarre Love Triangle – Extended Dance Mix begins with some ghostly sounds, before kicking drum beats come into the piece. It then goes in a glorious and melodic danceable tune. It sounds really good, and very inspiring for young musicians, to this day. The singing by Bernard Sumner is really fantastic here, and he comes into a great voice of his own. It sounds so optimistic and joyful, that it is light years away from Joy Division. The lyrics certainly match that, too. In the midsection, it goes back into an instrumental nirvana. Great stuff by New Order. There are some electronically treated drum sounds toward the end, which require listening to. Some electronically treated vocals then enter the mix, sounding unique. You get the picture, don’t you? It’s a really great song and has barely aged.
True Faith has some great drum sounds to begin, before the melodies follow into the mix. The wonderful lyric at the start indicates the joyful optimism that Bernard Sumner was feeling, rather than the miserable emotions of Joy Division. It reveals a group that is confident about their future. It’s here to listen to on this compilation for the good times. A well constructed and thought out song by New Order. If machines could make soul music, this would be it. A great melodic sensibility is here on this track. Great effort, a good listen.
Next is In A Lonely Place which begins with some quiet percussion and bass, before melodies gradually creep in. It’s a much darker piece which is a look back to Joy Division, complete with Ian Curtis style singing. It’s a dark listen, and not exactly danceable like the other tunes here. Some good use of melody is here, whilst keeping the ambiance very dark. Another good addition to this compilation, although it sounds different from the other tunes here. More like Industrial music, really. Still, a decent listen. Mind you, at over six minutes, it could have benefited from some editing.
The following piece is Procession which begins with some Ambient melodies, looking back to electronic works of earlier times. It then goes into a straightforward song, but feels rather weaker as an overall piece. Granted, no album is really perfect, but this is not a great song on the album. It is very hit-and-miss this song, so you can skip it if you wish. Still, it’s not horrible, just not that good. The outro has more Ambient sounds here.
Cries And Whispers comes next, with a more interesting set of sounds about it. It sounds more like Joy Division again here, but is New Order all the same. It’s more song oriented than the previous couple of tracks, but is a little better than those. An interesting set of electronic sounds have replaced electric guitars here, for the most part. A good effort nonetheless. The fade out is pretty nice.
Hurt – Substance Edit kicks off with some serious electronic treatment on a drum sound, before interesting bass guitar playing kicks in. A light keyboard sort of sound then enters. It then goes into a rather intense sounding electronic piece with special focus on the percussion in the mix. It’s not the Nine Inch Nails song, or the Johnny Cash rendition of it. It is their own, years before that Hurt was released. It’s rather unusual sounding, but it fits nicely on this compilation. It’s more an electronic set of textures than a song, but a great effort anyway. Great use of electronics here, more so than the other tracks on this compilation.
Next is The Beach which is a more straightforward rendition of the original Blue Monday without the long intro or vocals. These guys were DJs, not a rock group? Interesting listening all the same, a great rendition of the original, sounding a lot like a 1980s Daft Punk. It has all the instrumentation from the older song here, but is primarily an instrumental instead of an actual song. Good stuff anyway. A nice twist to their original song. Towards the end there are the primary melodies played on guitar and bass guitar. Brilliant.
After that is Confused – Instrumental which begins with cut up vocals and a simple melody, before going into a typical New Order piece on this compilation. It’s more textures than song here, but a great listen nonetheless. Unfortunately, like the rest of the album, this music sounds rather dated today. These guys were trailblazing the UK Acid House scene that came along around the time of the release of this album, and have cemented their reputation with pieces such as these. Great music though. The outro in particular is interesting.
Lonesome Tonight starts off with some simple bass guitar, before other elements come crashing into the mix. It’s a more song based tune with less emphasis on electronics. There is some minimal guitar work and some electronic melodies here, which fit the song very well. It’s a different listen compared to the previous track, but not as good admittedly. Still listenable though. It goes into a lengthy instrumental section towards the end.
Murder begins with some frenetic tom-tom drumming and some bass guitar, before the piece kicks off in typical New Order style. The guitar riff in it is almost twangy, but interesting nonetheless. There are some strange samples of human voices in it, referring to the potential experience of murder itself (although however freaky and horrible it may be). A good instrumental all the same.
Next is Thieves Like Us – Instrumental which is a great instrumental of the original track with catchy riffs and great playing. Everything is worked on perfectly here, with an excellent knowledge of textures and creativity. It’s a very good listening experience. Sounds really good as a number from this compilation. Shows that actions speak louder than words. A good listen all the same. It does go on for a bit too long though, perhaps a simple edit would have helped. Good all the same.
Following is Kiss Of Death which is another remix of an original New Order piece which is also on this compilation. It has lyrics and sound effects cut in and out of the mix. It’s not particularly inspired, and as this compilation goes on, it seems to lose that part of it. It’s more like a DJ effort by the group. A shame as this compilation gets rather repetitive and boring towards the end of it. A good fuzz guitar sound comes around halfway through the song, but once again, shows that this is more texture than quality. There is a huge buildup of sounds towards the end of this song, which is actually very clever, however.
Shame Of The Nation comes next. It’s another remix sort of piece which, at this point, really isn’t necessary. Interesting but it’s like listening through to a single with different remixes on it, not usually satisfying. Credit goes to whoever mixed these interesting sounds together though, a good element of an otherwise repetitive chore. Nothing really worth listening here for, unless you are into a lot of textures, not so much music per se.
1963 is the last piece on this album. Good thing too, for most listeners would find it difficult to get through such a long listen. It’s a freaky story about murder. Thankfully, this is the last track on the album. An exhausting listen to many and this song by itself is not very good. Not exactly a nice topic to hear, either.
The final verdict? It is an essential compilation in the history of music. However, the remixes and length of this compilation drag it down a lot. Still, it’s music and okay music at that, all being considered.