15 Years Ago: New Order Make a Return With ‘Get Ready’
The '90s were a strange and uneven time for New Order. Following the release and brief tour in support of 1993’s Republic, the group had for all intents and purposes broken up, but returned as one of the headliners on the third and final night of the 1998 Reading Festival. Still, it appeared the gig might be a one-off, until early the following May when the band’s longtime manager Rob Gretton passed away at age 46. That provided the impetus to begin work on the 2001 comeback album Get Ready.
The weighty guitar sound on Get Ready was a stark contrast to the dance-oriented songs New Order had been best known for, like “Temptation,” “Bizarre Love Triangle” and “Blue Monday.” The record demonstrated that the group could still evolve with the times; the Madchester scene and baggy style was a thing of the past, the Britpop explosion had come and gone with little fanfare in the States, leaving New Order in a unique position to carve out a fresh identity as the millennium dawned.
Some 20 years prior, in May 1980, guitarist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook and drummer Stephen Morris suffered a catastrophic loss in the suicide of their Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis on the eve of the quartet’s inaugural tour of the U.S. Left with the options to either disband or forge ahead, the remaining trio chose the latter, albeit with a different moniker and the addition of Gillian Gilbert on guitar and keyboards and Sumner hesitantly embracing the role of singer. This time around, while Gretton’s death was surely a blow – Get Ready was dedicated to his memory – it was more a shift in the musical landscape that gave Sumner, Hook, Morris and Gilbert the chance to redefine themselves.
The leadoff track and first single, “Crystal,” showcased the blueprint that would be followed, a strong guitar lead nearly overshadowed by Hook’s inimitable bass lines, with Sumner’s balanced vocals floating effortlessly over the proceedings. And while it didn’t compete, nor did it try to, with the garage-rock burgeoning outfits du jour like the Strokes and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the song and video would prove to be influential. New Order was portrayed in the performance clip by a young crew of hip and stylish imitators dubbed “The Killers” who eventually get forcefully removed from the stage. Two years later a real act with the same name inspired by the video would explode with their electronic-influenced debut Hot Fuss.
Get Ready also featured the newly solo and New Order mega-fan Billy Corgan of the recently dissolved Smashing Pumpkins adding his distinctive vocal inflections to the song “Turn My Way,” which helped raise the profile of the band for a new generation in America, as did his subsequent touring with them. Assistance was also given by Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie, who gave some edge to “Rock the Shack,” his duet with Sumner.
It wasn’t all turned up to 11, at least relative to the world of New Order. There’s the sublime album closer “Run Wild” and the chilled out “Vicious Streak,” and more than hints of electronica in “Close Range.” Get Ready ends up being a testament to the ability of New Order to fit in sonically pretty much anywhere, while still retaining their core essence. Unfortunately, this would be the last time the original lineup would pull it together, as Gilbert split before the ensuing tour to raise her children (fathered by Morris) and Hook would depart in a swiftly elevating contentious fashion as the '00s wore on, not being invited to play on 2015’s Music Complete.
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