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New Order's latest trumps dance-punk youngsters

BY EVAN MCGARVEY
Daily Arts Editor
Published May 8, 2005

Writing about New Order is exceedingly difficult. It’s not just because their history is tied up in the ghostly, industrial legacy of Joy Division and Ian Curtis. And it’s not just because pretty much every young “new” band (the Killers, the Bravery, the Rapture) is basically a chord-for-chord, word-for-word rehash of the Manchester playbook. What makes New Order simultaneously enthralling and confusing is their ability to commit all of pop music’s cardinal sins — commonplace lyrics, boyish, overreaching emotions and an insistence on disco-ready percussion — all while skating away from the scene of the accident, Teflon-coated and dragging a sea of dancing, devoted fans along with them.

Or maybe New Order works because they have the most relentless drummer in (neo?) post-punk history, Stephen Morris; the tingling, warp-speed bass lines of Peter Hook; and the ageless Bernard Sumner cooing into the microphone. It’s amazing that 20 years after “Blue Monday,” the band is still known as “that group made after Joy Division ended” instead of a collection of talented musicians.

A warning: their latest, Waiting For The Sirens’ Call has no “Blue Monday,” no “Bizarre Love Triangle,” no “Perfect Kiss” or any other four-minute pop gem. But there are still riffs aplenty. Lead single “Krafty” has high-altitude atmospherics and lines that only a self-convinced crooner like Sumner could pull off. Hook’s lightning bass on “Guilt Is A Useless Emotion” helps listeners stomach couplets like “Real love can’t be sold / It’s another color than gold.”

With an album full of sentiments like that, one could argue that the band’s songwriting died with Curtis. New Order is always unfairly slammed for dancefloor simplicity while older artists of similar lyrical “approachability” (read: shallowness) like U2 and R.E.M (neither of whom have made half the impact of New Order) are treated with kid gloves.

The album doesn’t distinguish itself from other recent New Order releases, but its adherence to the band’s manifesto — get people moving (“Turn”), get people kissing (“Dracula’s Castle”), get in a few surprisingly down-beat lyrical barbs (“Jetstream Lover”) — is a welcome show of workmanship in a sea of twentysomethings pitifully trying to reinvent the dance-punk wheel. New Order created the precious middle ground between punk and the disco ball; they don’t need to go anywhere else. This album would be a career maker for any other group. While Waiting For The Sirens’ Call isn’t an entirely new atmosphere for the band, it’s a nice enough shot of oxygen for the rest of us.

 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars