Sharoma The Rise & Fall of New Order

The Rise & Fall of New Order

A music video for When I'm With You, a live cover New Order did of the Sparks song.

New Order has recently released a double CD compilation called simply "Singles". This is the fourth in a long line of spurious collections that try to compile New Order's finest moments. 1987's Substance did an excellent job but was soon outdated by the band's prolific nature; 1994's Best Of was a typical record company cash-in; 2002 saw the release of a four disc box set (Retro) which failed in both its aims at providing a complete retrospective and in including any real rarities for fans; Yet another single CD set was released around the same time simply titled International. This was a failed attempt to showcase the greatest hits of the band in their long 22-year career, and obviously 80 minutes wasn't sufficient running time. So that was three years ago. New Order have since released a handful of singles and just one album, yet for some reason another compilation was thought necessary in case anyone forgot how Bizarre Love Triangle sounds. 2005's Singles will not change the fact that beyond 1993 the band's output is mediocre at best. Each update compilation just tacks the band's latest singles on the end to the detriment of the whole package's quality. So when did it all start to dwindle for New Order?

New Order started life shy and nervous, groping in the dark for a new direction. Their visionary singer Ian Curtis had just hanged himself and Joy Division were left without a lyricist, lead singer and front man. Transmogified into New Order, the debut album, Movement, couldn't have more accurately reflected the band. It's a fractured sound. The band are acknowledging that they'll be led down the electronic path into the future, but they're clinging onto Joy Division's gothic coat tails and no one's told them it's not the same anymore. Part of early New Order's appeal was this naivety. Early singles Procession and Everything's Gone Green feature a very frail vocal from Sumner, who can't figure out what to sing and how to sing it. The lyrics try to emulate Curtis. Martin Hannett tries to bathe Sumner's voice in reverb and effects to make him sound like Ian. The result is music that isn't confident and driving, but wistful and reserved. This just isn't the case with the current output of the band. Sure, time's have changed, but New Order are still the same quiet and introverted guys from Manchester (okay, Peter Hook is loud). Sumner's still faint and almost delicate vocals no longer sound na�ve and perfectly suited to a light early '80s synth. Now they're drowning in a torrent of guitar sound and simple rock beats. If they weren't released by a band called New Order, 2001's Get Ready and 2005's Waiting For the Sirens Call' would most likely have been written off as average middle-of-the-road albums with a very slight yearning to sound like an '80s synthpop band. They were innovative in the '80s. Their work with Arthur Baker produced New York club hits, and although they released a poor album in 1986 (Brotherhood) they still kept momentum up by constantly releasing strong singles.

1989's Technique finally saw the band reach their zenith. Its non-stop melodic and perfectly sequenced dance tracks were New Order striding confidently across the dance floor to nail their colours to the acid house flagpole. They'd finally found their sound. From now on, New Order switched from being a singles band to briefly being an albums band. Whereas the '80s had seem them relying on strong single outings at the expense of mediocre and often inconsistent albums, Technique and Republic were at last excellent albums.

Updating a 'Best Of' every few years won't change the fact that they haven't made a decent album since the early '90s. They'll probably keep on going, because most bands aren't really interested in preserving a perfect legacy.

New Order, Part II.