Thursday, 16 January 2014
127 Brotherhood - New Order
Purchased : 14 July 1989
Tracks : Paradise / Weirdo / As It Is When It Was / Broken Promise / Way Of Life / Bizarre Love Triangle / All Day Long / Angel Dust / Every Little Counts
Perseverance brings its own reward and my next visit to Soundsearch yielded up this one for £4.00, another case of catching up on a 1986 release that I couldn't afford at the time.
New Order's fourth album was recorded at a difficult time for the band. Their previous LP the excellent "Low Life" had sold poorly and failed to yield any Top 40 singles ( though the standalone single "Shell Shock" had scraped into the Top 30 in April 1986 ). Local bragging rights and leadership of the indie scene had passed to The Smiths; there was little trace of their influence on C86. The money they were earning was being channelled into an underperforming night club. On top of all that their gigs were acquiring a reputation for violence.
Some of that uncertainty seems to leak into the opener "Paradise" an obsessive love song to someone called Jolene alternating between threat and mourning. For most of the track Sumner provides two vocals, one low and deadpan, the other keening and desperate as in the chorus where Sumner one howls "I want you I need you" and Sumner two growls a sardonic "Sha la la la la". Stephen Morris leads the attack in the music with some of his most ferocious rock drumming while conversely Hook supplies perhaps the most melancholic of all his basslines; the little solo he plays is ineffably sad. It's probably the best opening track of all their LPs.
Hook is prominent again on the following track "Weirdo" which bears a strong resemblance to his successor band Monaco's What Do You Want From Me . Beginning with the shortest of intros it 's a brash and noisy guitar thrash and again has a twin vocal from Sumner ( which isn't as effective here ) . The lyric is pretty meaningless and the whole track is a bit hollow.
"As It Is When It Was" seems to be about not getting the response you were looking for on meeting up with a childhood friend. It starts with an untypical pretty acoustic passage before Hook and Morris kick in and give the song some bite. The sound builds to a cacophony for the last verse which draws your attention to the fact that the band's production is a bit murky throughout the LP.
It has been speculated that "Broken Promise" is addressed to Ian Curtis and it's certainly possible to make that construction from the lyric with "There's a shadow of another hanging over me" and frequent references to the afterlife. The intro's noticeable similarity to Isolation is another clue though thereafter it's a close cousin to the previous LP's "Sunrise" in its mood of rising desperation.
"Way Of Life " rounds off side one with a song of angry rejection by someone who knows he's been lied to. Despite this , after the pounding intro which threatens another Atrocity Exhibition the mood of the track is upbeat with the most melodic chorus on the album and some pretty acoustic flourishes in the mix.
"Bizarre Love Triangle " I've already covered in the "Substance" post.
"All Day Long" is something of a departure for the band in confronting a social issue straight on, the abuse and murder of a child known to the narrator. Whether Sumner based it on a real personal acquaintance isn't known. The narrative is over and done with in the first couple of minutes making way for an extended instrumental passage of great beauty and drama with an extended bass solo from Hook and a number of Kraftwerk synth lines. It's probably their most under-rated song.
"Angel Dust " just begs a drug interpretation with lyrics like "You came here to steal my freedom ". It repeats the pattern of the previous track with the last words coming at the midway point and then a long dark instrumental passage with strings, Arabic wailing and a
singing guitar solo over the twitching synth pulse.
That just leaves the curious "Every Little Counts " which really does sound like they were messing around with a pastiche of Walk On The Wild Side - Sumner breaking down into Elvis -style giggles while intoning the nonsense lyric of the first verse - before deciding it stood up as a song. After an unexpected false ending the synth starts playing a melody not too far removed from Decades before a final piece of japery ( which probably doesn't work so well on cassette or CD ) - the sound of a stylus skidding across the grooves - brings it to an abrupt halt.
"Brotherhood" is the work of a band who, having made a great LP which didn't sell, were not quite sure how to improve on it. It would take an outside producer to help them out of the hole and restore their standing. That said it's still a pretty good album.