10 Best New Order Songs
New Order were never supposed to exist. Rising from the ashes of post-punk legends Joy Division in the early-'80s following the suicide of singer Ian Curtis, the surviving members of the Manchester, England-based band -- singer and guitarist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook and drummer Stephen Morris, plus then-new recruit Gillian Gilbert on guitars and keys -- got off to a tentative start with the single 'Ceremony,' a track penned by Curtis before his untimely demise. From there, they gradually found their own identity, branching out into -- and eventually becoming one of the most influential purveyors of -- electronic music and touching on everything from post-punk and synth-pop to New Wave and club-friendly rock in the process. With the latest incarnation of New Order in the midst of a rare North American tour, we figured now is the perfect time to offer suggestions for encore requests. Without further ado, here are the 10 best New Order songs.
The previously unreleased 'True Faith' was included on 'Substance 1987' to entice fans to buy that singles compilation, and buy it they did -- it's the band's only platinum-certified disc in the States. The Bernard Sumner-penned lyrics are ostensibly about drugs -- rumor has it it originally included the verse "Now that we've grown up together/ They're all taking drugs with me," but producer Stephen Hague convinced Sumner to change the latter line to "They're afraid of what they see" out of fear the tune wouldn't get radio airplay. Apparently, the switch worked, as 'True Faith' was the band's first-ever Top 40 U.S. hit.
New Order's first album-backing single of the '90s and the opening track from 'Repbublic,' their first record in four years, 'Regret' showed a different side of the group. Their sonic hallmarks are all still there -- slightly club-leaning beats, obtuse lyrics delivered with Sumner's characteristically flat voice, densely layered instrumental melodies and with intricate interplay -- but Stepehen Hague's production emphasizes the guitars over keyboards, a stylistic decision heard through much of 'Republic.'
New Order's popularity waned a bit in the mid-'80s after the lightweight 'Low-Life,' but the surprise popularity of the club-friendly rave-up 'Bizarre Love Triangle' brought them back to the top regions of the charts, kicking off a string of hit singles that included 'True Faith,' the revamped 'Blue Monday 1988,' 'Regret' and 'World in Motion,' the slightly cheesy fight song for the English soccer team's 1990 World Cup run that nonetheless earned the band their only No. 1 homeland hit.
The first single off New Order's sophomore album immediately showed how much the they had evolved since their 1981 debut, 'Movement.' While that first disc found NO searching for direction after the loss of their frontman, 'Power, Corruption & Lies' is a fully formed document of a band experimenting with electronic music while retaining the human element that made Joy Division so emotionally powerful to begin with. Opener 'Age of Consent' glides along on Gilbert 's ambient synths, Sumner's tight hooks, Morris' taut polyrhythms and Hook's solid bass anchor.
Like 'Power, Corruption & Lies' before it, 'Low-Life' kicks off with easily one of the best songs on the disc. 'Love Vigilantes' is a tear-jerker of a tale disguised as a gently up-tempo and extremely melodic gem. It tells the story of a soldier injured in battle who returns home to his wife only to discover he didn't survive the war after all. Iron & Wine turned in a stunning cover of the tune on their 'Live Session (iTunes Exclusive)' EP, which delivers the convoluted tale in typically hushed tones.
John Denver, of all people, sued New Order over 'Run,' claiming the song's main guitar riff was a little too similar to his vocal melody in the chorus of his 1967 hit 'Leaving on a Jet Plane' for comfort. (The parties settled out of court.) A more concise and more polished version of 'Run,' remixed by Scott Litt and titled 'Run2,' was released on 12-inch vinyl as a single off 'Technique,' but the album version is definitely the keeper.
New Order are best known to mainstream music consumers for their get-down-party-people club anthems like 'Blue Monday' and 'Bizarre Love Triangle,' but it's perhaps the sublimely beautiful ballads that are their biggest triumphs. Few bands before them managed to utilize standard digital music instrumentation -- namely synthesizers, sequencers and drum machines -- and still create such poignant and emotion-laden music. Stretched out over nearly six minutes, 'Your Silent Face' piles majestic melodies over a repetitive, Kraftwerk-like groove -- and then shows off the band's warped sense of humor. "You've caught me at a bad time," Sumner sings in a near whisper, and then adds, seemingly from out of nowhere, "So why don't you piss off."
It started with an accident and ended up as the best-selling 12-inch single of all time. The nearly seven-and-a-half-minute-long tune -- one of the longest singles to ever chart in the U.K. -- has a very distinctive opening, kicking off with a four-count drum machine beat, which quickly fades into a sequencer melody. But Gilbert triggered the sequencer a hair early, so the melody is out of sync with the percussion -- a happy studio accident they decided to keep, giving the song a sinister, slightly off-kilter edge. Inspired by New Order's time spent in the clubs of New York City, 'Blue Monday' was a massive hit on the dance charts, and it inspired countless numbers of remixes and covers. Hell, New Order themselves released it as a single three times: the original 12-inch, the shortened 'Blue Monday 1988' 7-inch and the so-called "hard-floor radio edit" 12-inch, 'Blue Monday-95.'
One of the final songs penned by Joy Division before Ian Curtis ended his life, 'Ceremony' was never officially released by the band, but a handful of live and rehearsal versions have surfaced over the years. New Order formed as a trio, re-recorded 'Ceremony' and released it as their first single within months of Curtis' death, and the song's origins are readily apparent; even with Sumner handling vocals, it sounds more like a Joy Division cut than anything New Order would later put out. They recorded it yet again as a quartet after Gilbert joined later in 1981, but even with the full "classic" New Order lineup tackling the tune, it's still more post-punk than synth-pop.
It's nearly impossible to single out one tune as New Order's best, but if nothing else, 'Temptation' could easily be called their most definitive. Like 'Blue Monday,' 'Temptation,' was released multiple times; 'Temptation '87,' the version that was featured on the 'Trainspotting' soundtrack, is probably the best known, but it's the original 12-inch single version from 1982, with its more chaotic feel and driving rhythms, that is the best. Ian Curtis' grand statement with Joy Division was his disheartening realization that 'Love Will Tear Us Apart.' With the joyful 'Temptation,' New Order finally found the confidence to counter with their own realization, one that the band has spent the last two decades revisiting in a multitude of forms: Love will keep us together.