I’ve Been Waiting To Hear Your Voice For Too Long Now

By 1985 New Order were well into their stride, the faltering, unsure, step-by-step progress of the early years well in the past. 1983’s album Power, Corruption And Lies more or less invented electronic indie and contained at least two career high points (Age Of Consent and Your Silent Face) as well as the blueprint for Blue Monday. The run of singles from 1982 to 1985 takes in Temptation, Blue Monday, Confusion, the peerless Thieves Like Us plus its B-side Lonesome Tonight. Then they put out another album, recorded in 1984 and released in May ’85- Lowlife.

Lowlife only has eight songs on it but almost every one is a winner, disco and rock seamlessly intertwined. The sound combines full on synths and sequencers with Hooky’s distorted bass providing the rock ballast. Stephen’s drumming, with plenty of digital delay, is crisp and loud. The guitars are trebly and choppy, like Velvets era Lou Reed on acid. Lowlife is the first New Order album to contain singles and the first to feature band photographs on the cover (which Peter Saville then obscured by wrapping in tracing paper). From opener the Salford country & western of Love Vigilantes with Barney’s enigmatic Vietnam War lyric to the magnificent closer Face Up this is a record I never get bored of. Face Up is huge, a glorious synth and bass intro, sampled choral voices, synth drum pads and then … whoosh, we bounce along in NO disco heaven. The lyrics contain the usual mix of clunkers and the perfect skewering of life (see ‘your hair was blonde, your eyes were blue, guess what I’m gonna do to you’ and ‘we were young and we were pure and life was just an open door’). Up until 1989 the lyrics were usually a group effort. For Technique Barney took over lyrics and vocals completely, something else Hooky rues as a nail in the coffin.

Sub-culture is here too, another disco-rock peak, Barney’s vocals sounding like a guide vocal that he never bothered to redo (and all the better for it). That one fingered synth intro, followed by the drum machine and then the dark lyrics about walking in the park late at night and shafting on your own. Sub-culture is a close cousin of The Perfect Kiss and builds similarly, synth drums and bass riffs piling on top of each other. It was later released as a single in remixed form (by John Robie, an inferior version really with backing vox and synth stabs. Peter Saville was so disappointed he refused to design a sleeve for it). Hooky points to Robie’s influence as being one of the turning points that ruined the group. Before Robie they didn’t write songs following any rules- after Robie Bernard insisted on all the songs being in his key and eventually they became verse-chorus- middle eight formulaic. But let’s leave the blame game aside and stick to the songs. Elegia is their intense instrumental tribute to their former, deceased frontman. I posted the unedited fifteen minute version last autumn and if you haven’t heard it you should seek it out. The Perfect Kiss is inserted as track two, a peak among peaks (although it’s an edited version on Lowlife. You need the full-on 12″ version, a single for which the 12″ format might have been invented). The Perfect Kiss has peaks and troughs, bass playing that is something else entirely, and several climaxes. This Time Of Night and Sooner Than You Think are both good album tracks. If pushed I could live without Sooner…. I suppose. But today’s song is this one, closing side one, Sunrise. Possibly the rockiest song on Lowlife it opens with descending synth chords before being joined by a superb bass riff -then the whole band join in, pronto. The guitars rattle, bottle tops on the strings to get a Morricone sound and Bernard’s vocal is straining, at the top of his register. The synths continue to wash away. The guitar, bass and drums drive away. At the end Bernard thrashes the toggle switch on his guitar. Done.

Sunrise

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A Given End To Your Dreams

More early New Order. Movement was released in December 1981 and was by all accounts a difficult album to make. The group were unbalanced and their way of working was broken (during the Joy Division days the group would jam and Ian Curtis would spot the good bits which would then be worked into songs). No one especially wanted to sing and none of them could play and sing at the same time (this would become part of their sound in the 80s- Barney’s guitar playing filling the bits where he’s not singing and Hooky frequently carrying the melodies. Weaknesses become strengths). Movement was produced by Martin Hannett but the relationship between the group and the producer had broken down. According to Hooky ‘Hannett would lock himself in the control room, saying ‘Start playing, I’ll come out if I hear anything I like’. He never came out’. Hannett was also suing Factory at the time which can’t have helped.

Out of this came an album which sounds a bit like Joy Division but without Curtis, trying to move forward but not really managing it. The real movement would come with the singles- Everything’s Gone Green, Procession, Temptation and the second album. Having said that time has left some highlights- Doubts Even Here, The Him and ICB all have glimmers of the future and the sounds are becoming more varied. The peak is the opener, the only song on the album which is just guitar, bass and drums and the one that Hooky sings. Dreams Never End is a properly exciting song, from the intro of driving bass and guitar lines playing around each other onwards.

Dreams Never End

Peter Saville’s cover art, Italian futurism again, is beautiful.

As a bonus here’s a lost child of the New Order story. In 1982 New Order recorded a second Peel Session. Two of the songs would later appear on Power, Corruption And Lies, an album which redefined them and their music. The two other songs were a cover of Keith Hudson’s dub reggae song Turn The Heater On (an Ian Curtis favourite and recorded for him, I’ve posted it before) and Too Late.

Too Late is a moody song, synth drums, beautifully distorted bass and glacial pace, haunting and the equal of most other songs from around this time. According to Hooky when they were having a go at recording it Bernard had nipped out of the studio. The other three put some backing vocals down. When Barney returned he showed his disgust at this and walked out. It was never finished. And in Hooky’s view this was one of the starting points for Bernard grappling for control of the band. As a result of this Too Late would only ever appear as the Peel Session version.

There Is No End To This

Before my holiday I promised/threatened some New Order posts, so that’s what’s happening for the next few days I think- nuclear war and a Nazi takeover of the US notwithstanding. It is utterly appalling that the President cannot condemn actual Nazis on the streets of the a US city, murdering people. It is utterly appalling that Nazis still exist to demonstrate openly. This is the swill that comes to the fore following Trump’s election, Farage’s games, Brexit, ‘populism’ and austerity. Racists emboldened to show their faces in daylight.

Back to the music. Procession is an overlooked New Order single being neither the defiant ‘we’re alive’ rallying cry of Ceremony nor the ‘we’ve just invented dance-rock’ blast of futurism that is Everything’s Gone Green. In his book Substance- Inside New Order Hooky names Procession as one of four key songs that led the group out of Joy Division’s rock and into New Order’s electronics. During the 80s most New Order songs were written by the group jamming and then identifying the best bits and working them into a song. Procession was different, largely written by Stephen Morris (the lyrics and vocal lines plus a lot of the keyboard parts apparently). No sequencers at this point but the road to Blue Monday (and beyond) is clearly present. The 7″ single was released in September 1981, a few months before Movement. The other side is Everything’s Gone Green, a much more significant song, a huge, throbbing piece of dance-rock and a massive step forward. Procession gets overlooked. Which it shouldn’t.

Peter Saville’s sleeve came in nine different colours (for the record I own two, a blue and a green) and is based on Italian futurist designer Fortunato Depero’s work. Everything’s Gone Green would be released later in 1981 as a full length 12″ version. These songs were the last New Order songs produced by Martin Hannett. According to  Hooky, Hannett made Barney do the vocals forty three times. Hannett was bereft without Ian Curtis and had little time for the three that were left behind. In return Hook, Sumner and Morris had had enough of Hannett and his methods and habits and felt they’d learned enough to produced themselves. Procession is light and poppy, with synths to the fore, but also dense and uptight. The vocals are muffled and indistinct in places. Hooky’s bass is still very much a Joy Division bassline and Stephen Morris’s drums are as urgent and precise as ever. There are backing vocals from Gillian, a bit of light in the shade, and it all comes together with the ‘your heart beats you late at night’ vocal followed by some spindly guitar from Barney and then a sudden end before the synth outro. Compared to the largely dour Movement from later that year things are moving forward though, clearly.

Procession

Celebration

I’m off on my summer holiday today, hitting the road to Portsmouth, an overnight ferry to St. Malo and then one night in Bordeaux. From there we are heading to a campsite north of Bayonne, on the Atlantic coast of south west France. A bit over a week later we are heading north and having four nights in the Vendee near Saint-Jean-de-Monts. So it will be two weeks before there’s any action here.

I bought Peter Hook’s latest book Substance, which focuses on his time in New Order, for one of my holiday reads. Over the last few days curiosity has got the better of me and I’m already a hundred pages in. Which led me to looking for this clip, a fledgling New Order playing a short set (half an hour, six songs) at Granada Studios in 1981 for a programme called Celebration. According to Hooky there had been a disagreement with the TV crew. Union regulations meant that only a union member could touch the sound desk- words and opinions had been exchanged. The tension is clearly present. However this is also a fascinating document of a band crawling out of tragedy and feeling their way towards a new sound. Dreams Never End (the best song off Movement), sung by Hooky, is driving and aggressive. ICB, Chosen Time, Denial and Truth show the band still playing Joy Division riffs but with the synths and electronic drums finding their way in. Just listen to the opening of Truth, Steven’s synth pads hissing, then Hooky’s bass and Barney’s melodica. Ceremony is played four songs in, guitars rawer and brighter than the studio version. The twenty seven minutes captured here are a treat all these years later but no one there at the time, audience included, seems to be having very much fun.

No doubt once I get back, having got through all 700 plus pages in Substance, there will be further New Order posts to come. See you all in a fortnight.

Update

You’ll have noticed that nothings happened here for the last seven days. The computer developed a fault. I took it to be repaired. They phoned today to tell me that the computer is exactly where I left it with them because the van that comes to pick up faulty goods to take them for repair has had the ‘wrong size containers’. This caused me to feel quite angry. They say it will be up to another week before I get it back. This caused me further feelings of anger and annoyance.

I’m typing this on my daughter’s laptop which contains exactly no music to post so I’m going to Youtube and giving you this as a stopgap. Andrew Weatherall has done two remixes of The Liminanas single Garden Of Love (the one with Hooky on bass and backing vox). This version takes the drums off and takes it almost into Smokebelch Beatless Mix territory.

We’re Changing Our Ways Taking Different Roads

We went to see Peter Hook And The Light on Friday night at the Apollo. Some friends had double booked themselves and gave us the tickets gratis. I’ve taken a purist line about New Order recently, holding the view that New Order without Hooky isn’t really New Order. I’m not sure where that leaves me re: Hooky playing without any other members of New Order but he’s got as much right to play those songs as anyone- his bass is as much the sound of Joy Division and 80s New Order as any other instrument, maybe more so. It’s a massive shame that Hooky and Sumner have got so far apart. I can’t help but feel that if Rob Gretton had lived he’d have banged their heads together and sorted them out. But it is what it is and the promise of both the Substance albums played in full and some good reviews was enough to go.

The first half was New Order working forwards through Substance chronologically, the dance influence building from Everything’s Gone Green and Temptation through to Bizarre Love Triangle and True Faith. One of the highlights of the gig is seeing Hooky and co performing New Order songs that the original band haven’t done live for years- Thieves Like Us and Confusion are superb and The Perfect Kiss is enormous with its extended bass ending. Subculture and State Of The Nation both get welcome airings. First half set closer 1963 is almost better than the recorded version. There’s a rawness to this band that stands in contrast to the other group and it’s good to see and hear.

After a short break they return for the Joy Division set. Hooky tells us that the first time he played the Apollo was in 1978 supporting Buzzcocks and that the venue seemed a lot bigger then. He seems genuinely moved at the sight of a full house. There’s a lot of warmth for him here and a lot of older gig goers willing him on, plus a few youngsters who clearly want to hear Joy Divison songs done live. The Joy Division songs are rough and ready, David Potts’ guitar turned up loud and distorted, two basses (Hooky’s son on one of them) and Hooky now fully confident on vocals. The vocals on some of New Order’s songs are well out of Hooky’s range and former Monaco bandmate Potts fills in but Hooky’s gravelly voice is ideally suited to the JD material and he sings them like he means it. Inevitably after building a head of dance steam in the first half the tone changes as they work their way through early JD material, songs like No Love Lost, Komakino, Warsaw and Leaders Of Men, with a detour into a frenetic run through These Days. Things really get going again with Transmission and then the intensity of Dead Souls. Everyone knows what the last two songs will be- an emotionally charged Atmosphere (dedicated to the recently departed Alan Wise) and then Love Will Tear Us Apart (dedicated to  Ian Curtis, naturally). When the accounts are finally taken, the dust has settled and it’s all totted up Love Will Tear Us Apart will surely be this city’s anthem and it becomes a full on, audience joining in version. New Order have performed this song for decades now, reclaiming it from the dead back in the 80s. The Light with Hooky singing do it just as well as the current version of NO do. Hooky sings it better too. When the final chords ring out, guitars are dropped to the stage floor and a shirtless Hooky takes the applause before walking off to the dressing room, the crowd carry on the chorus for a minute or two, dragging the band back on stage for another bow. No encore. No need.

Love Will Tear Us Apart (Pennine Version)

Garden Of Remix

Earlier this year The Liminanas put out a new album, Malamore, preceded by a Peter Hook bass-led single Garden Of Love. This has now been remixed by Andrew Weatherall into a murky, bleep based excursion with a synth breakdown at four minutes followed by some drama before the bleeps and heavy breathing returns.