Sharoma New Order, Part II

New Order, Part II

I think it is time for New Order to stop. No more albums, no more compilations and no more reissues! They don't seem to care about their own recorded legacy, and have allowed their material to be raped by money-grabbing record labels.

"What!? Robin, you've been playing New Order obsessively for many years now. You even own the rare limited edition Substance cassette, as well as the normal cassette version, the LP, the CD, the DAT. Don't you want to see even more compilations, and more albums with Saville's artwork?"

No

2008 has been a very active year for reissues. The Thompson Twins and Blancmange have had their albums put out again in deluxe editions, and many other bands from music's golden history are seeing their music repackaged in these waning days of the compact disc format. When I first heard about New Order's album reissues I sighed and, like Depeche Mode and The Cure before them, decided I was content with my original CD issues (see: LOUDNESS WAR). Despite what any Amazon reviewer says, the sound quality on the CentreDate or Factory CDs is perfectly fine if you have a sound system that can extract and amplify it properly. And the promised bonus tracks? By this time I don't care anymore. New Order have released such a torrent of substandard material that it's obscene they are still peddling it as "bonus" material. Many of their remixes were crap back in the day, and they still are. In fact, a large chunk of their albums are inferior to the output of their contemporaries. It's hard to fathom why they have such critical praise lavished upon them. Is it simply the Joy Division legacy? It must be.

The Album or the Single?

Movement, PCL and Low-life

Movement is a very good album, and it always will be. It's a perfect evolution from Joy Division and the non-album and single tracks from the era are beyond excellent. Hurt, Mesh, Cries And Whispers, Temptation and, of course, Procession. What a fine period they had! The sound quality on the original issues of this album DO do the songs ample justice, and since all the period bonus tracks are available on Substance, or, if you look hard enough, the 1981-1982 EP, there is simply no need to hand over more cash to whichever record company swines are taking the lion's share these days. Likewise PCL and Lowlife are reasonably strong, but none of the remixes really warrant extended listening. There's a reason New Order had to start padding out their 12 inch records with remixes and instrumentals of the same track, and I'll leave it to you to figure out. Yet there is still enough strong original material on these three albums to label them as "classics".

Substance: 1987

Substance has always been and always will be the definitive New Order record. It covers their finest singles and non-album tracks from their most prolific and creative period. If you only buy one New Order release, this should be it. In fact, you could omit all their standard albums and still have access to most of what made them great. They weren't an albums band, and nor were they a singles band, but Substance argues the singles case better than the albums ever could.

Brotherhood is rubbish!

I'm not going to go on about it with a song-by-song run down. Needless to say, it's badly recorded, badly executed and poorly written. Some of the worst lyrics and most forgettable melodies. If any New Order record needed remixing, then this is it. Then again, I like Movement, and the band themselves don't stand behind it (Sumner claims not to own a copy).

Technique & Republic

Technique is excellent, and despite it's somewhat dated sound, it was certainly a brief return to form. Sound quality wise it was loud, but not overly. It's club music after all. Although lacking in imagination (the first four tracks are the first four singles), Republic is mostly excellent, but it accurately serves to depict The Decline & Fall of the New Order/Factory Empire.

Terrible later albums

They are, and I can't even bring myself to write about them. But I will say this: the mastering, like anything from New Order released in the 21st century, is atrocious. LOUD LOUD LOUD with no detail or dynamic range. Is it time now to apply that to their early albums too?

The 2008 reissue debacle

You can read all about this in exhaustive detail at the New Order Online forums. I do not for one minute believe Peter Hook's excuses that it was the record company's cutbacks that were to blame. He himself obviously did not take a front seat position with these releases as he damn well should have done. Bernard Sumner doesn't care about the songs and admits to not even owning Movement - his apathy is upsetting but excuses him from taking the blame. Hook, on the other hand, makes a poor argument. Companies with a fraction of the resources of Warner/Rhino have put out better reissues than this (namely, LTM, who also lack access to master tapes since Factory Records couldn't even find their arses with both hands; how could we ever expect them to successfully archive and store a master tape of music?). The fact that the resissues were full of errors and used poor vinyl sources AND saw release on both sides of the Atlantic despite the problem coming to light just highlights what a joke the music industry has turned into. I will never buy another New Order product, because they should be ensuring their own catalogue is kept free of the many over-lapping compilations and terrible reissues. I could go on and on about the bonus tracks only giving us, mostly, what we already have and omitting what we have wanted for years. That itself is not even the worst of it.

What should have been done

So you have all these studio albums, and all these singles, and an old compilation that compiled only up until 1987. What happened next? Well, for a start, there was a Best Of in 1994. We can't blame anyone for that. A Best Of is always a cash cow and it's accepted that every band, good or bad, will eventually have one. But to have a four disc (well, five if you bought it early enough) boxset that didn't really offer anything new, and then a single CD called International that again didn't offer anything new and then another two CD set called Singles that covered their whole career up until 2005? It's getting ridiculous, and then to offer the reissues up with a bonus disc of the same old songs. What on earth has happened to this band? They have become a joke. They should have ceased releasing any more compilations and instead of Singles, released a part two to Substance featuring 1988 to the present. That leaves all the 7 inch edits (since Substance favoured the extended mixes), and they would be fine additions to the bonus discs instead of rehashing the same 12 inch mixes and other material yet again. What annoys me the most is the fact that they now have a very cluttered and crowded list of releases that are still not comprehensive. Their catalogue is a big mess and most of it now sounds terrible. I find it oh so amusing that upon release of the reissues all the official publications once again lavished praise upon them and the band; obviously they never actually listened to them otherwise the many errors and flaws would have been apparent. And that's my point: New Order have reached that stage where they are critically acclaimed without even deserving it. The band is bigger than the music, or to be more precise, the products now released bearing its name. How ironic that it was the products that mattered the most in the Factory days. In a way I feel sorry for New Order. First they suffered the worst inconveniences of an incompetent indie label, and now they are suffering the worst excesses of major record company greed (and also incompetence). The original CDs and Substance will do me fine, thank you very much.

In case you missed it: A music video for When I'm With You, a live cover New Order did of the Sparks song.