Families can be curious things, can’t they? One minute family members are fighting, swearing never to deal with each other again – the next, they are vowing to always be there for each other. I tend to think of New Order in those terms – off and on fighting throughout the years, extended breaks, and even break ups. Somehow, someway – they’ve always come back together to make music that was mostly inspiring. It is no secret that their previous incarnation as Joy Division (minus Gillian Gilbert / plus Ian Curtis) is one of those bands that I discovered early in my teen years and has inspired me to try and forge my own path in life. I tend to frustrate people when they ask what I think of New Order, because my stock answer has always been “I like the bits that sound like Joy Division”. Not entirely true, mind you – but fun to say. So here we are in 2013 with a “new” New Order record, 8 years after the last. The question on the tip of my tongue was “Well, is it worth it? Why bother?” The answer is a resounding yes – this is a classic New Order album (just stop with the mini-album subtitles)
Lost Sirens has its roots in the sessions for Waiting for the Sirens Call – basically left over tracks that the band never released once they apparently broke up in 2007. Once the band got back together (minus bassist Peter Hook) they pushed to have this record released (having to sort out legal issues with Peter Hook prior to release). Confusingly, the band on this record is Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, and Phil Cunningham (Gillian Gilbert took a leave from the band from 2001 until 2011). The current band drops Peter Hook and replaces him with Tom Chapman while also welcoming Gillian back to the fold. With all of this drama and change you could very well find yourself wondering why the band pushed to release an album that now consists of 6 unreleased songs, 1 song from the latest New Order compilation, and a remake of a New Order song that is only 8 years old. It’s quite simple, really – the band had a great record that deserved to be heard by its devoted fans.
Does it have a feel like it’s real, like it’s true? (selected highlights)
I’ll Stay With You opens the album with a classic New Order vibe – emotive yet disconnected vocals from Sumner, shimmering bass lines from Peter Hook and melodic guitar hooks. Honestly, this has a timeless feel and sounds like it could have been recorded at any point in New Order’s 30+ years of recording. Perfect start. Key lyrics: “And where your friends / Just when you needed them? / They were not there / Why did you believe in them?”
Sugarcane New Order meets Pet Shop Boys and comes up with a rousing electronic sound (lame hipster side band reference, sorry. Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before). I’ve read other reviews knocking this track, I don’t understand that at all. This is a perfect disco anthem that recalls the best bits of New Order and provides a euphoric feeling when it kicks into the ridiculously catchy chorus. Key lyrics: “Why don’t you wake up / And stop what you’re doing right now? / You gotta be true / You know you don’t live forever / Hey, man, it’s gotta be right”
Hellbent – recalls the best moments of 2001’s Get Ready – an aggressive update of the classic New Order sound, incorporating more of the post-punk influenced guitar from their days in Joy Division. Every aspect of New Order that makes them great is here – made complete with lyrics that both resonate and come off of Bernard Sumner’s lips just a bit awkwardly (in a good way). The instrumental breakdown towards the end highlighting both the bass and guitar work is simply stunning. Previously released on a compilation, but it fits perfectly within the context of the album. Key lyrics: “Do you know what I mean? I’m trying to say I’m sorry / You’re the star in the scene, you’re not just anybody / There’s a light in your eye that I can’t seem to reach”
Shake it Up – a track that has become my favorite tune on the record (for now). Starts out with a Pet Shop Boys influenced vibe before the classic New Order sound of keyboards / bass carries the tune into the stratosphere. Sumner’s vocals sound like they are coming from a man in his 20’s or 30’s, not a seasoned music vet in his mid 50’s. Deceptively off the cuff lyrics before it kicks into one of the best choruses of the band’s career (yes, I am sober and know what I am saying). Key lyrics: “Does it have a feel like it’s real, like it’s true? / Does it have a feel like your own life / Watch you on TV like you’re standing on the front line / And the papers saying that the later”
Every family comes with its emotional baggage – that’s just the way life seems to be set up. For the members of New Order it is no different. Through life, death, and everything in between the band has always carried on – even if there was a gap of time in between. Will Peter Hook and the rest of the band ever make up? It is impossible to say. I do know that regardless of what the future has in store for us, the band has delivered an engaging album that warrants your attention.
Verdict: It’s a Family Affair
For Fans of: Joy Division, Pet Shop Boys, Interpol, The Chameleons, The Cure
1. I’ll Stay With You
4. Californian Grass
6. Shake It Up
7. I’ve Got A Feeling
8. I Told You So