Instant Expert: New Order
You’ve seen them at parties, lurking in the corner, waiting to engage in battle disguised as conversation. They’re indie rock know-it-alls, and no matter what band or musician you mention, they’ve got an opinion — strong and almost certainly negative — ready to ram down your throat. With Instant Expert, we offer preparation for these very situations. Each Thursday, in advance of your weekend carousing, we pick an artist and provide a quickie career overview, highlighting both prevailing critical opinions and the inevitable contrarian counterarguments. Even if you’re completely unfamiliar with the music, you’ll be able to bluff your way through and defend your indie cred. This week: New Order.
New Order were born from tragedy. In 1980, the group’s three members were part of Joy Division, one of post-punks brightest bands. But then their singer killed himself, leaving the others shocked and uncertain about their future. They regrouped as New Order, adding synthesizers and pop melodies to their previously gloomy arsenal of sounds. It took a while; their early records were pretty much Joy Division copies (guitarist Bernard Sumner, now New Order’s singer, even copied the late Ian Curtis’ mournful tone in New Order’s first songs). But by 1983, when ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘Confusion’ became dance-club hits, they had developed into one of the world’s most important synth-pop groups.
New Order’s best work can’t be found on their albums. It’s their 12-inch singles and B sides from the first part of the ’80s that made them instant legends. The 1987 compilation ‘Substance’ gathers 24 songs — including classics like ‘Ceremony,’ ‘Temptation,’ ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ — on two discs. You don’t need anything else.
The group was still reeling from the previous year’s tragedy when they released their 1981 debut, ‘Movement,’ so it basically sounds like Joy Division blueprints. But 1983’s ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ is fully formed, a definitive synth-pop work that’s still influencing artists today.
New Order took an eight-year break between 1993’s ‘Republic’ (their highest-charting LP) and 2001’s ‘Get Ready,’ and they sounded like a hungry new group when they returned, combining classic pop riffs with renewed purpose for the new millennium.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Say This
If they’re such a great synth-pop group, why did Duran Duran sell way more records in the ’80s?