I do like to make things tough for myself with these imaginary albums. I should stick to bands who came and went in a flash leaving fans with 20-30 songs in total instead of a body of work that stretches back across four different decades during which time their sound changed and evolved somewhat. Or maybe I should take Tim’s advice from yesterday and go with the 11th band/singer that pops up via random shuffle…
I thought I’d better get this piece in just to show I’m not totally relying on the very welcome guest contributions. But I have made one slight adjustment to make life easier on this occasion by introducing a one-off rule that I must have a vinyl copy of the songs which means, for this particular compilation, that anything post 1990 is ruled out as everything since then is on CD….but having said that, there’s not much would have made the cut in any case.
I was a fan of Joy Division and was pleased that the rest of the band decided to keep things going after the suicide of Ian Curtis but I initially changed my mind after the first time I caught New Order live which was early 1981 at the now demolished Plaza Ballroom on the south side of Glasgow. To be frank, they were a shambles and the songs didn’t sound anything the way I expected. It almost felt as if Curtis was irreplaceable as a singer, as a presence and as a songwriter.
And then a couple of months later, the debut single was released and I knew that everything was going to be OK, albeit there were wobbles along the way with the debut LP in November 1981 being a bit more patchy than I’d have liked with not many tracks being as good as the debut and follow-up singles from earlier in the year. But from the release of Temptation in May 1982 through to hitting #1 with World In Motion exactly eight years later there were few who could match the Mancunians in quality. Here’s my, sure to be controversial, imaginary album:-
1. Age Of Consent (from Power, Corruption & Lies, 1983)
The patchiness of the debut album made me nervous about how good or otherwise the follow-up was going to be. New Order hadn’t disappointed on the singles front and musically were taking things in all sorts of directions. I put the needle into the groove of the opening track on the new album and was completely blown away to the extent that I thought the rest of the LP to be a bit of a letdown. But after another two or three plays I realised that it was a really good album….but its opening track was an exceptional piece of music and all these years later I still think it is the greatest piece of indie/pop/dance ever written.
2. The Perfect Kiss (12″ single, 1985)
There was a recent brilliant observation from a reader that Soft Cell always seemed to make tremendous 12″ records which they then edited down to a more manageable form for release in 7″ format or as an album track. I have absolutely no doubt that this is the case with The Perfect Kiss.
There is not a single second wasted on the full near nine minutes on the 12″ which includes all sorts of weird sound effects including frogs croaking and sheep bleating and is the sound of band brimming with confidence and self-belief. The album version on Low-Life and indeed the even shorter 7″ version are both great bits of music but the full version is just majestic.
3. Lonesome Tonight (b-side to Thieves Like Us single, 1984)
Hooky’s bass lines are behind some of the greatest New Order moments and there’s few better examples than this of him driving a song along and almost challenging his band mates to come up with something as classy and as cool as the notes he’s hitting. On this much under appreciated song they more than succeed.
4. Temptation (12″ single, 1982)
Having slowed things down a tad with the last song its time to take listeners to the pinnacle of the New Order sound, with what I have long said is the greatest ever 45 in the history of the pop single. (It’s just as well that Age of Consent remained as an album track as I’d have found it impossible to choose between the two).
Whoever it was that came up with the wiki entry for the song has written something extremely astute by saying that the 7″ version is a more structured version with a commercial synthpop feel while the 12″ is more chaotic with the emphasis on electronic rhythms rather than melody.
I love both versions and regard them as completely different songs, almost to the extent that I considered including each of them on this imaginary album. But in the end it is the 12″ version that always wins the day…it never fails to put a huge smile on my face whenever I hear it and there’s a real special sensation when John Blain Hunt airs it at his Little League nights as I close my eyes and shake my thang on the dance floor imagining that it is the early 80s all over again and I am resplendent in my raincoat, 28″ waist skinny jeans and bouffant held together by a ridiculous amount of hairspray looking like the perfect blend of Bunnymac, Edwyn, Barney and Moz. Dreams Never End.
5. Run (album version, from Technique 1989)
I love every single second of Technique and consider it to be the band’s most consistent LP in terms of quality – a view that isn’t widely held among the other big fans of the band of my acquaintance. Run is one of the most outstanding songs on the album and rather bravely the band went for an edited single release in due course in which about 45 seconds are chopped off and by editing down the dreamy instrumental finish to the song and replacing it with more of the re-recorded vocal with Barney’s voice given more prominence than the original mix. It’s a decent enough mix and does a job of giving us enough changes to think of it as a new song altogether but it’s not a patch on the original.
1. Love Vigilantes (from Low Life, 1985)
This was a band who specialised in providing the wow factor with opening tracks on their albums. Even the disappointment that was Movement had a belter of an opener in Dreams Never End (although the Peel Session version of the song was/is better) and I’ve already said my tuppence worth about Age of Consent. In later years, Paradise, Fine Time, Regret and Crystal would all get their respective LPs off to a great start with only Who’s Joe on the 2005 LP Waiting For The Sirens’ Call being a letdown in this respect.
But Love Vigilantes is something else altogether; a ghost story delivered over a jaunty upbeat indie tune that seemed to take a glance over to Robert Smith at The Cure and deliver a ‘beat that’ challenge (which to be fair he just about did shortly afterwards with the release of Inbetween Days, the best New Order song written by someone else!). As my dear friends from Canada would say…..awesome.
2. True Faith (12″ single, 1987)
The sheer brilliance and crossover appeal of this record can be seen from the fact that it reached #4 in the UK when, other than Blue Monday and Confusion (both of which sold well with dance fans), the band had struggled to make much of impact sales wise in the single market.
True Faith is an extraordinary record that admittedly benefits from the input of uber-producer Stephen Hague who had previously helped to refine the sounds of Pet Shop Boys in a way that maintained their credibility while making them huge pop stars. But there is evidence that the song itself is a belter as seen by the fact that it was given an extensive indie dance remix by Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osbourne in 1994 and that version of True Faith also went Top 10 in the UK.
Oh and the original release was also accompanied by an amazing promo video.
3. Ceremony (7″ single, 1981)
The one with the bronze cover, although I could have just as easily used the 12″ version with its dark green cover with gold writing as the two versions are identical.
The songwriting credits indicated that this was a Joy Division song and eventually we would get to hear their take on things with an Ian Curtis vocal via its inclusion in the Heart and Soul box set released in 1997. But back in 1981, it was an indication that New Order were determined to carry on as best they could and even although it was clear that Barney wasn’t anything like as good a singer as Ian the powerful delivery of the music more than made up for it. I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat when I first listened to this record and whenever I have heard it in a live setting ever since it has had the same impact.
It was interesting that just six months later the band, having recruited Gillian Gilbert as a new member, felt it appropriate to re-record Ceremony and re-issue it as a single, this time in 12″ form only in a cream and blue sleeve. It was a marginally shorter version in length and sounded more New Order than Joy Division. If that had been the only version it would be considered a very fine record, but it’s not a patch on the first version.
4. Blue Monday (12″ single, 1983)
This song was in and out of this imaginary album on at least ten occasions. I had settled on the running order for 9 out of the 10 tracks but just couldn’t make my mind up on what to put in as the penultimate track on Side 2.
Contenders included the 7″ version of Temptation, Love Less, Your Silent Face, the album version of Sub-Culture, As It Is When It Was, Cries and Whispers, 1963, Bizarre Love Triangle and Vanishing Point. But it is impossible to ignore the claims of what was and still is one of the most groundbreaking bits of music that has ever been recorded.
I had a short-term relationship in the summer of 1983 with a girl I had met on the dance floor of Strathclyde University Students Union. I was a regular at that venue but this girl wasn’t, and after a couple of dates it was clear things weren’t really going to work out, not least because our musical tastes were so different. She was real disco diva who had only gone to the Student Union to keep a friend company but had taken a shine to me on account of my constant dancing and she assumed I was someone who would have been happy going along to any club or venue. But I’ll always remember that she was an even bigger fan of Blue Monday than I was which says all you need to know about the crossover appeal of this piece of music. It is a genuine classic.
5. Leave Me Alone (from Power, Corruption & Lies, 1983)
It just somehow seems appropriate that,having started things off on this compilation with the opener from 1983 album which once and for all determined that New Order would do their own thing and not be mere JD copyists, it should close with this lovely little underrated number.
So there you have it folks. My imaginary New Order album of 10 songs. It has a high number of singles on it but then again this was a band who, together with their much-loved and much missed manager and their equally much-loved and much-missed label owner, knew a cracking tune when they heard it and wanted to get it out to as wide an audience as possible.
mp3 : New Order – Age Of Consent
mp3 : New Order – The Perfect Kiss (12″)
mp3 : New Order – Lonesome Tonight
mp3 : New Order – Temptation (12″)
mp3 : New Order – Run
mp3 : New Order – Love Vigilantes
mp3 : New Order – True Faith
mp3 : New Order – Ceremony
mp3 : New Order – Blue Monday
mp3 : New Order – Leave Me Alone