Wednesday, 20 October 2010
33 Movement - New Order
Purchased : 4 August 1984
Tracks : Dreams Never End / Truth / Senses / Chosen Time / ICB / The Him / Doubts Even Here / Denial
This was purchased from Bostock's in Leeds on my way back from a meeting with two fellow members of the Leeds University Liberal Society to discuss some issues for the next term. Obviously it followed on from the purchases of Closer and Power Corruption And Lies the previous year.
I knew I'd be getting to this soon and wasn't looking forward to it. I've never actively disliked this LP but more than a quarter century on I still can't bring the music to mind when I see the titles (except for "Truth" - the one with the melodica) . It's the musical equivalent of a blurred photograph; no matter how hard you squint it will never come into focus.
Historically it's important as the first New Order LP , recorded in the wake of Ian Curtis's suicide, and their last collaboration with producer Martin Hannett. With characteristic stupidity Factory released it just before Christmas 1981 and just a fortnight after the Joy Division outtakes/live collection Still . It got to number 30 then turned tail and was instantly forgotten.
The opening track "Dreams Never End" is a close musical cousin to their first single Ceremony though without the benefit of an Ian Curtis lyric. It starts as so many of their later tracks would, with Peter Hook's ringing six-string bass riff (later to be very closely approximated by Simon Gallup on Inbetween Days ) soon joined by frantic hi-hat work from Steve Morris and complimentary minor chord work from Bernard Sumner before the drums kick in after 50 seconds. It's possibly the most compelling bit of music on the LP but unfortunately doesn't lead to a very interesting song. Hook intones tunelessly with heavy echo but is so mixed down it's hard to make out the lyric which seems to be an admission that they can't emulate Curtis's lyrical depth - "We'll change these feelings, we'll taste and see / But never guess how the him would scream". With no change in the music from one verse to the next it gets boring despite being just over three minutes long and ends suddenly without any resolution.
"Truth" is the most distinctive song on the LP purely because Sumner plays a melodica on it. He takes over the lead vocal on a song which sounds like an inferior re-tread both musically and lyrically of The Eternal from Closer. Morris doesn't actually drum on the track merely programmes some primitive beatbox while Hannett re-creates the hissing synth noises from the earlier track and Gillian Gilbert punctuates the verses with some abstract guitar squall. The real weakness is Sumner's timid vocal which never rises to the occasion.
"Senses" sees a little more input from Hannett who was distracted by both legal issues with Factory and increasing substance abuse during these sessions. The track is based around electronic percussion which skitters between the speakers while Gilbert hesitantly plays around with the low frequencies on her synth. Everything else is mixed down low especially Sumner's tuneless vocal and tinny one note guitar playing. It's an interesting example of the band reaching out for a new sound but like most of these tracks outstays its welcome.
"Chosen Time" benefits from Steve Morris returning to thrash the hell out of his kit while Hook lays down one of his fastest riffs. The problem is that the song is pitifully weak. Sumner, mixed down so low he sounds like he's trapped in a fridge, mumbles his way through another two verses of vague gloom before letting Hannett fill the rest of the track with more ambient synth noise.
Flipping over we have "ICB" , thought to stand for Ian Curtis Buried which is ironic since the music seems to be a composite of elements from various Joy Division tracks - the bassline from Dead Souls, the sweeping synths from Disorder , the metallic drum sound from She's Lost Control. Sumner's vocal is marginally better than on the previous three tracks (not that that's saying much) and there is at least a verse-chorus structure to hold your attention.
"The Him" also stays close to a Joy Division formula with Steve Morris laying down a drum track that's similar though less aggressive to the one on Colony and suddenly speeded up sections like in 24 Hours and Dead Souls. The droning synths do lend a bit of colour to Sumner's sombre vocals.
"Doubts Even Here" sees Peter Hook back on the mike and his Curtis impersonation is slightly better (up to Pickwick standard). Morris mixes acoustic and synthetic percussion and the glacial synths recall Atmosphere. Hook's bass mourns in the foreground and the lyrics address Curtis's death more directly than elsewhere - "You fade from sight there's nothing there". The lyrical climax of the song is quite wordy and half of it is spoken by Gilbert but instead of lifting , Hannett drops the vocals back in the mix and it's a struggle to hear any of it.
Finally we have "Denial" where Sumner's atonal guitar thrashing sounds very similar to New Stone Age on OMD's Architecture And Morality. Morris's drumming hints at the dancefloor but it's hard to understand what Hannett was trying to do here as the whole track sounds like the band are playing in the next room.Like the first track it just ends suddenly without climax.
And that's it. If New Order had carried on like this they'd have ended up like Gary Numan, in a cult cul-de-sac, sales diminishing with each release and of no interest to the wider world. This is just an album of settings for which the band couldn't deliver the songs yet. It is historically interesting as a late 1981 artefact , it's failure paving the way for the New Pop dawn of 1982. Curtis couldn't be replaced, least of all by hs surviving bandmates so the gloom had to lift. Perhaps that's the movement they had in mind.