This is the first chapter in an epic power struggle between the group''s rock-and-roll heart Peter Hook''s melody-carrying bass and the array of computers, sequencers, and keyboards that slowly began to pile up around these erstwhile punks in the early ''80''s. (That''s Hooky''s...
This is the first chapter in an epic power struggle between the group''s rock-and-roll heart Peter Hook''s melody-carrying bass and the array of computers, sequencers, and keyboards that slowly began to pile up around these erstwhile punks in the early ''80''s. (That''s Hooky''s own metaphor, cribbed from the liner notes to the Rhino edition of Technique.) This is also the collected 12-inch singles and b-sides of the first six years of existence of the greatest UK singles-artists since the Beatles, an unparalleled string of number one hits for a band who refused to do interviews, or pose for photos, or put the band name or their likenesses on their sleeves. (And were notoriously terrible live, unless magic struck...)
As has been repeated endlessly, New Order were three-fourths of Joy Division, and the spectacularly radical course they took was in all likelihood a flight from the black hole that was self-murdered JD lead singer Ian Curtis. So in place of charismatic stage presence, NO stood for artisanal reticence; in place of dirges (even JD''s fast songs were dirges, somehow), NO invented UK dance rock (saving an otherwise unredeemably bad genre by never forgetting the "rock" part -- thanks again, Hooky); in place of despair made worse by the memory of better times (Ian''s lyrics hurt, and differ from other gloom-meisters, because he did not want to be like this), NO found ecstacy in the sunrise over bleak Manchester as you stagger away from the dancefloor at dawn, the drugs wearing off, not sure if that woman you fleetingly made contact with was The One, happy not even knowing her name and aware you may never see her again, a moment "touched by the hand of God..."
The Joy Division/New Order continuum was like some weird re-enactment of Velvet Underground Mark I (the Nico-Cale Years) and Mark II (Lou Reed dominates); the first dark, unbearable beauty, the second sweetness and light underpinned by irony and melancholy. JD covered VU Mark I''s Sister Ray, NO sound like VU Mark II''s "What Goes On," "Beginning To See The Light," and "Sweet Jane" were the only songs ever written.
NO are the both the most- and worst- compiled band in the history of recorded music. Their albums are pretty poor, they were born singles artists, so you would think putting a volume together would be easy; but the plethora of 7", 12", album versions and re-mixes of those singles required compilers to make tough choices, and except for Substance, the dozen or so discs of New Order compilations are marked by the wrong choices being made. Substance benefits from being done fairly early on,so less need to make omissions, and benefits from choosing a single course and sticking to the usually superior 12" club versions. I have supplemented it with "Singles," a 2-disc collection of 7" A-sides only that extends the 18 years or so after Substance, and doesn''t feel duplicative because the songs shared by both are radically different in 7" and 12" incarnations. Then I picked up the really flawed 4-disc box set Retro because it has 12" versions of some of the post-Substance 7" on Singles and a decent disc of cherry-picked album cuts. Hopefully one day they''ll finally pull the trigger on an aborted box set containing every version of every single and b-side ever and be done with it. The fact that I own a total of 8 discs of New Order anthologies and still don''t possess the best version of every single is a preposterous state of affairs. Still, for NO''s best, earliest, and most path-breaking and prolific years, ''81--''87 Substance is reasonably compehensive
Anyway, this band performed the miracle of fusing the Velvet Underground, Giorgio Moroder, Kraftwerk and hook-driven rock and roll into a mechanized dance sound that is ineffable, sensuous and ecstatic. And I hate most of the clubby wimpy druggy dance music NO gave birth to. They caught lightning in a bottle, and this collection catches them at their world-conquering peak, as they stumbled their way to inventing their idiom, and even the mis-steps sound inspired.