During the early Bush II years I watched as my favorite band became embraced for the values that had raised suspicions during his father’s era: the cultivated, surly anonymity; the resolute commitment to disco and rock. It angers me, I gotta say, that claiming New Order is no longer a minority opinion.
Here are my favorite New Order albums.
1. Technique (1989)
In which Bernard Sumner learns to sing and it’s not embarrassing; the band can’t decide between programming sequencers and playing live drums so the sequencing is as dizzying as mixing liquors; and manage in the midst of the biggest binge of their careers to assemble “Dream Attack,” the greatest song about the afterglow ever sung by a white man. Yet Gillian Gilbert’s synth bass keeps inserting discord, eventually pissing Mr. Disco off enough for him to attach the following couplet to his valentine: “And for you I will do what I can/But I can’t change the way that I am.”
2. 1981-Factus 8-1982 (EP)
“A mopping-up” release, to quote Wikipedia. Description not criticism, I tell students. The home of “Everything’s Gone Green” and the almighty original version of “Temptation,” the too little loved UK release “Procession," and two superb B-sides, 1981-1982 showed New Order breaking free of Martin Hannett’s icy grasp by figuring out that if they shimmied long enough in place the fingers would start to loosen. Had New Order dissolved after Movement and this EP they’d still be legends.
3. Low-Life (1985)
When New Order discovered the conventional possibilities of the rock guitar, they still couldn’t let go of what they’d learned and loved about disco; hence, “Sunrise,” in which Gilbert and Stephen Morris force Sumner to return to full trance mode after his atypical solo. Considered for years their best by Americans, Low-Life has a brashness stemming from the fact that the band has written four or five of their best songs. “Love Vigilantes” has one of Peter Hook’s more mellifluous bass lines and one of Sumner’s more coherent lyrics; “Sooner Than You Think” — a narrative! — depicts the awfulness of staying in shit hotels and having drunk conversations; and “This Time of Night” is the male British version of a Shannon song, all obsessive two-note synths and double-tracked Sumner vocal. I don’t need to say a word further about “Perfect Kiss,” in its 12-inch version and video versions staking its claim among the most perfect of disco mixes.
4. Brotherhood (1986)
As if tired of fighting their press, New Order divided their rock and disco sides like the Stones did with ballads + rockers on Tattoo You. But the latter boasted Bob Clearmountain to tighten and sweeten the mix; Brotherhood is New Order’s muddiest listening experience, yet this works too: the rockers sound like early '80s Talking Heads, the dance tracks like rock tracks imitating the sound of early eighties Talking Heads. The last purchased of the classic sequence, I fell in love with “Weirdo” and “Way of Life” because their verse-chorus-verse unfolded like 12-inch mixes.
5. Movement (1981)
The ghost of Ian Curtis haunts these uneasy truce between Hannett and the band. Sumner sounds spooked, and like a Method actor he makes the fear work for him. Thanks to the 1995 comp, casual fans know “Dreams Never End,” on which Hook’s baritone imitates doom with adolescent abandon. Kids, this album was impossible to find until it got an official American release in 1992, and guess what? I understand why it’s many fans’ favorite. I’ll point to “Senses” as the key track.
6. Power, Corruption & Lies (1983)
Revered now, PCL is the weakest of their eighties run, despite “Leave Me Alone” and “Age of Consent” and a certain track omitted from the original release that became the biggest selling 12″ single of all time.
7. Republic (1993)
Like Bowie and Ferry, whom I’d just discovered, I was ready to overrate my favorite band’s latest product. Sumner, having triumphed with 1991’s Electronic, was at a vocal and songwriting peak. So what if it sounds like Sumner and producer Stephen Hague playing and programming everything themselves (that’s what Hook claims; no one has denied it)? The mix is like a good port: rich and viscous. “Regret” everyone loves. “World,” “Chemical,” and “Spooky” are fine generic pop house for any Cathy Dennis fans left in 1993. And “Everyone Everywhere” is a top ten New Order track on which the entire band plays.
8. Music Complete (2015)
It doesn’t matter anymore, but Music Complete was their best since 1993. The band, returning to their granitic indifference, watched as dance music accepted house keyboard flourishes and bass burps again. Tom Chapman’s contributions do not force me to miss Peter Hook.
This originally appeared on Alfred Soto's blog, Humanizing the Vacuum.