For a band that had long taken pride in the quality of its 45s, from ensuring as few as possible were on LPs to the high quality designs of the sleeves to making more than decent and different b-sides, New Order really seemed to give up the ghost once they found themselves on London Records.
Regret had been well received and the reviews for parent album Republic were universally positive, so much so that it went in at #1 on the album charts. Job done for all concerned at the new label.
But it proved to be an album, for this long-time fan anyway, that seemed to offer little in the way of substance (pardon the pun) and it didn’t really stand up to repeat listens. The reviews were almost as if the critics were using up all the goodwill from previous years, delighted to see the band back after four years in the wilderness offering proof that, post-Factory, there was much to look forward to.
I’ve dug out a review from NME – one in which the critic awarded the album 8/10. With phrases like these, that mark is perhaps understandable:-
New Order return near-triumphant after four years in the superstar wilderness, still sculpting and creating music as dizzyingly pretty as an azure chemical sunset over Los Angeles. The oceanscapes, landscapes and cityscapes of the world might have changed almost beyond recognition in the interim, but this Mancunian quartet have managed to retain their poignant, indefinable essence while voyaging tentatively into new waters.
It can’t be the easiest task in Christendom to sculpt an album that marries the machine-dreams of the purest Euro techno with Funk percussiveness and absolutely haywire melodies – these musical cul-de-sacs are usually mutually exclusive – and string wayward, frothy, accusing and tender poetry on top, but more often than not they’ve pulled it off.
But later on, the reviewer, Dele Fadele, points out something rather obvious about the record and why it was of huge bother to many fans:-
‘Republic’ has been produced and co-written with Stephen Hague with, for the most part, positive results. The only gnawing bone of contention is that he doesn’t seem to realise that Peter Hook’s melancholic, melodic bass-playing is the soul of New Order, the point from which all the other emotions start to make sense. Hook seems to have been confined to playing bit-parts on his own LP and the effect is that the tracks take some getting used to, such is their unfamiliarity, although when they finally sink in they just keep on growing. The single ‘Regret’ is not symptomatic of what follows, being classically hummable, guitar-led New Order, but at least you can hear Hooky.
If the reviewer really does think that Peter Hook’s bass was the soul of the band, how can you be so fawning over an album in which he seems to hardly feature?
Regret opened up Side A of Republic – it was followed in order by World, Ruined In Day and Spooky, all of which were released as 45s (but not in that particular sequence).
Ruined In A Day was released in June 1991 on 2 x CDs, 12″ vinyl and cassette. All told there were eight(!!!) mixes of the single. World, one of the other tracks on Republic (and a future single although we didn’t know it yet) was given a dub version on the 12″ while a new song, Vicious Circle, was released in two versions – the New Order Mix on the cassette and the Mike Haas mix on CD1. I thought it was the worst single they had ever released (up to this point) and I didn’t buy any of the versions…I wasn’t alone as it limped to #22 despite all the formats. I may not have bought it at the time and still don’t own a copy, but one of the remixes was given away on a compilation CD with a magazine around the same time:-
I’ve also done a bit of villainy for your previously unreleased track which is more like an Electronic outtake than anything else:-
Moving on two months and the newly titled World (The Price of Love) became the third 45 to be lifted from the album. This time it was on 2 x CDs, 7″ and 12″ vinyl with, yet again, eight mixes of the single featuring the work of Paul Oakenfold/Steve Osborne, Brothers in Rhythm and K-Klass. There were no new songs on offer. It reached #13.
Finally, the dead horse was truly flogged in December 1993 when Spooky was issued as a single, To show you how ridiculous things were getting, I’m going to list all nine variations:-
1. “Spooky” (Minimix) (Remixed by Fluke)
2. “Spooky” (Magimix) (Remixed by Fluke)
3. “Spooky” (Moulimix) (Remixed by Fluke)
4. “Spooky” (album version)
1. “Spooky” (Out of Order Mix) (Temixed by Paul van Dyk)
2. “Spooky” (Stadium Mix) (Remixed by Tony Garcia)
3. “Spooky” (New Order in Heaven) (Remixed by Paul van Dyk)
4. “Spooky” (Boo! Dub Mix) (Remixed by Tony Garcia)
5. “Spooky” (Stadium Instrumental) (Remixed by Tony Garcia)
There was also a 12″ single but it didn’t offer anything not available on the 2 x CDs.
Tune in next week to hear the bottom of the barrel really being scraped by the record company.