Beyond The Hits Of New Order, Joy Division And Warsaw
, July 23rd, 2015 08:03
Our favourite album tracks, deep cuts, rarities and b-sides as chosen by Alfred Soto, David Bennun, Julian Marszalek, Jude Rogers, John Doran, Yousif Nur, Aug Stone, Joe Kennedy, Andy Thomas, Ian Wade, Colm McAuliffe, Geoff Cowart, Ed Power, John Mullen, David McKenna, Pavel Godfrey and Adrian Lobb
Photo by Nick Wilson
'In A Lonely Place' - New Order, 1981 (B side to 'Ceremony')
This song has been largely forgotten about, not least by the band themselves (they last played it live nearly two decades ago). The gorgeous, resplendent 'Ceremony' fits more neatly into the story of a band resurrecting themselves after Curtis' suicide - but 'In A Lonely Place' also deserves its part in this tale, a necessary and electrifying act of mourning. Like 'Ceremony', the song is a reconstruction of a Joy Division tune - but the pain is red-raw here, not least because Sumner has to sing some of Curtis' most maudlin and prophetic lyrics ("The hangman looks round as he waits/ Gullet stretches tight and it breaks"). To these ears, Sumner sounds utterly petrified of these lines - but he puts all his emotion into the last line of each verse, "How I wish you were here with me now." The song is completed by Martin Hannett's masterly production, where electronic swooshes create the sense of a band adrift in a lifeboat on a treacherous sea.
'Colony' - Joy Division, 1979 (Peel Session)
As far as Martin Hannett’s influence on Joy Division goes, the suggestion that they would have sounded better off without him is as plain foolish as the notion that their musical impact hinges entirely on his production wizardry. They undoubtedly required Hannett’s vision to bring focus to their embryonic genius on Unknown Pleasures (which he did by pulling their sound apart, turning hairline cracks into chasms) but by the time they came to recording Closer, the band had grown into themselves and on the album takes of the relatively rocky ‘A Means To An End’ and ‘Colony’, Hannett has to really dial down the power for the sake of the overall picture. They’re almost ballast compared to the spacious masterpieces around them - or maybe it just feels that way once you’ve heard the ‘Colony’ Peel Session. The ‘official’ version is a report filed on a domestic breakdown in which Ian Curtis is simultaneously culprit, victim and witness; in the alternative session lyrics it’s more as if he’s broadcasting from a human settlement on the far side of a scarred and blasted landscape, in the aftermath of some barely imaginable atrocity: “I watched all hell break loose, confined and unprepared.” It’s one of his most commanding vocal performances. At the same time, Sumner chopping at his guitar becomes helicopter blades whirring into life, Hook and Morris absolutely lock in to their metal-snake groove, and a subtle swell of synth at around 2.20 minutes is like a subterranean tremor. Maybe it’s all just too apocalyptically glamorous - recorded like this it certainly wouldn’t have matched Closer’s exquisitely muted palette, Hannett was right in that sense. But it does demonstrate what a fearsome unit Joy Division had become.
'Twenty Four Hours' - Joy Division, 1980 (album track from Closer)
As Joy Division’s final punk song, 'Twenty Four Hours' occupies a strange place in their catalogue. It’s too fluid and aggressive to fit into the austere geometry of their more “post” sound, and too spectral to sit well alongside the ripping garage-rock of 'Interzone' or the An Ideal For Living EP. Superficially, Hannett’s gauzy production and Sumner’s eerie arpeggios place this track at a great distance from the Stooges worship of Joy Division’s early days. And yet it is here that they are closest to The Stooges: 'Twenty Four Hours' is the third time Joy Division ripped off the main riff to 'I Wanna Be Your Dog', and the truest to the spirit of the original. 'Warsaw' chops it up and locks it into a taut punk beat, turning it into a wardance for angry nerds. 'Insight' replays it as a warped and distant memory, obsessively replayed. But 'Twenty Four Hours' has all the hurtling momentum, all the hammering drone, of the Stooges original, breaking it only to recoil for the next attack. It pushes onwards into the realm of dark beauty waiting just beyond the edges of Iggy’s “burning sand”. When Ian Curtis sings, “I watched it slip away,” he speaks the sense of loss at the heart of his music, and he does it with a snarl of rage.
‘Love Vigilantes’ – New Order, 1985 (album track from Low-Life)
Low-Life’s opener blasts off with four exuberant snare bashes before some head-on motorik and a melodica riff reminiscent of Lennon and McCartney’s early quayside harmonica. This opening sounds like an attempt to reconcile northwestern England’s distinct musical traditions of angular Eurocentric modernism and poptimist humanism, but the arrival of the lyrics seems to steer the song decisively in the direction of the latter. This is a McCartneyesque ‘story song’ narrated from the perspective of a soldier returning from war in the ‘Land Of The Sun’ to his family. However, in keeping with Sumner’s desire to write a ‘redneck’ tragedy, there’s a twist: his wife has been informed by telegram of her husband’s death, and has killed herself. The ending is ambiguous, and gives us either the soldier looking aghast at a scene provoked by the erroneous news of his demise, or a Sixth Sense-style ghost-that-doesn’t-realise-he’s-a-ghost. It’s vintage folksy territory, but for the gaucheness of execution in the insistent rhyming ("Oh I flew through the sky/ my convictions could not lie/ For my country I would die") which makes the lyric sound so flippant it’s almost dissociated. Whether or not this is a verbal ineptitude on Sumner’s part, the effect is to push the human tragedy of the narrative back into the abstraction and the emotional arrestedness of Joy Division and Section 25. This idea of alienation via hearthside storytelling was mined to greater critical acclaim by St Etienne on 1994’s ‘Like a Motorway’, but this might be the first example of the microgenre.
'Paradise' - New Order, 1986 (album track from Brotherhood)
Brotherhood is probably the least cherished album of New Order's Imperial Phase quartet (from Power, Corruption And Lies through to Technique.) And what reputation it has kept adheres chiefly to 'Bizarre Love Triangle'. I've long had a soft spot for it, myself, and I think a large part of that is down to its opening track, which always takes me straight back to the first time I heard it. Back, what's more, to the instantaneous rush of its first few seconds; of hearing that kick-drum thump and then that magnificently obvious bassline. It was so un-New Order, yet so unmistakably them. Had it been any less blatant, it would have stumbled over itself. Instead, it thrilled me then as it does today. It sounded like it was knocking on America's stadium door, and perhaps it was. It was the most down-the-line Rock Anthem they recorded in their prime; urgent, impassioned, with a kind of semi-abstract Springsteenish quality to the lyric - which, weirdly, addressed a girl called Jolene. There always was, one senses with New Order, a great deal of making it up as they went along. Their best songs were rich in meaning, but meaning that tended to discover itself. Thus 'Paradise' was about longing, about alienation, about escape; about all those teenage things that - like dreams - never end. I love it still.
'Turn The Heater On' - New Order, 1982 (Peel Session)
The first of The Peel Sessions to be released on Strange Fruit in 1986, New Order’s four track 12” was recorded on June 1, 1982. On ‘We All Stand’ and ‘5-8-6’ you can feel the group shedding the heavy weight of Movement and gearing up to their great LP of transition Power Corruption & Lies. “Movement was horrible to make,” recalled drummer Stephen Morris. “It was hard because Martin (Hannett) took Ian’s death harder than we did.” They dedicated their version of Keith Hudson’s ‘Turn The Heater On’, the opening track of their first Peel Sessions, to reggae fan Ian Curtis. He had introduced the group to the dub legend’s Torch Of Freedom LP, as well as the melodica that would feature on tracks like ‘Your Silent Face' and 'Love Vigilantes’. But their version of ‘Turn The Heater On’ could also be heard as a tribute to Hannett, the dub obsessed producer they had learned so much from.
'‘1963’' - New Order, 1987 (B-side of 'True Faith')
To spend your time searching for lucid and coherent meaning in New Order lyrics can often lead to considerable mental instability. While the band’s mid-1980s contemporary Green Gartside busied himself within the parlance of pop by trading theory for feelings, Bernard Sumner and co. routinely disappeared down the rabbit hole of textuality, their lyrics full of gaps and aporetic cul-de-sacs. ‘1963’, originally the B-side of ‘True Faith’, ostensibly deals in chronological specificity but is it a treatise on domestic violence? Or the doomed JFK’s affair with Marilyn Monroe? However, all interpretation eventually becomes immaterial when immersed in Stephen Hague’s superior, definitive production; Stephen Morris hammered the shit out of a pillow resting on his lap to get the best out of the hi-hat stabs which punctuate the song while the bass and drums calibrate magnificently on the gorgeous, melancholic coda, driven by Hooky’s pealing bass motif. And, by that point, you realise it’s nothing to do with analysis or even virtuosity; it’s all affinity, rapport and a reverential sense of sonic absorption.
'No Love Lost' - Warsaw, 1978 (from Warsaw) & 'No Love Lost' - Joy Division, 1978 (from An Ideal For Living)
There's a lot of talk of the early 'punk' Joy Division but even a cursory listen to Warsaw, especially on 'Leaders Of Men' and 'No Love Lost', reveals them to be a post punk band who occasionally played punky numbers. Perhaps they cast off the desire to be a straight up punk band as early as shedding the name Stiff Kittens in May 1977; the same day they played their first gig supporting Buzzcocks. Now, everyone talks about the flash point of that Sex Pistols gig - try stopping them! - but impetus aside, it's clear from the Warsaw album that a different punk influence was fighting to make itself heard in among all the other sonic ingredients. It was Richard Boon and Pete Shelley who suggested the name Stiff Kittens to the band, but perhaps it was the musical influence of the Buzzcocks that had more permanence. Hear those buzzsaw guitars and bear witness to the Europe facing, art school aspect. Was this a two way thing? Listen to the 'Everybody's Happy Nowadays' b side 'Why Can't I Touch It?' recorded just a few months later... There was something in the water down Macclesfield/Salford way in 77/78. But regardless, this is no punk song, Stephen Morris is already doing his best Dinger and Hooky is just rolling along; listen beyond the scratchiness of Sumner's guitar and there's something almost free and psychedelic going on; Curtis, with all of his two way mirrors and transistors in walls is paranoid and Burroughsian. Anything that was raw throated and angry has already frozen into something glacial and anhedonic. The whooshing and bleeping synths all over this version are almost certainly the post production touches that RCA added to the tracks (recorded in May 1978) alienating the band, causing them to abandon the project - but these are also the first premonition of what's yet to come. And then listen to the Joy Division version recorded just weeks later. It's more primitive in some ways yet this time they nailed it viciously to the wall. Just listen to it. Joy Division exploded out of the gates. They were one of the greats from literally the second they were born.
'Exercise One' - Joy Division, 1979 (from Still)
The jagged, dissonant Exercise One was recorded during the Unknown Pleasures sessions at Strawberry Studios in 1979. That it was omitted from the final album is no mystery – apocalyptic even by Joy Division standards, the song does not make for an easy bedfellow and would have disrupted Unknown Pleasure's graceful arc. In isolation, though,it constitutes a never-bettered showcase for Joy Division's experimental leanings – with just a handful of EPs and singles to their name, already the group was throwing off the shackles of punk and taking its music somewhere weird and unsettling. Lyrically, in particular, 'Exercise One' has a devastating, scorched-earth quality. It's a cliche to invoke JG Ballard when assessing Ian Curtis's writing but there's a genuinely dystopian aspect to his wordplay here. "When you're looking at life/ in a strange new room/ may be drowning soon/ is this the start of it all?" he half wails, half croons. Given what happened the following year, the temptation is to interpret such thoughts as a despairing howl. However, Curtis was too smart and literate to wallow in misery for misery's sake and seems to be diagnosing a more universal malaise. The track pulses with paranoia, its raw nerves exacerbated by Bernard Sumner's guitars, which have the quality of nails across a blackboard.
'Candidate' - Joy Division, 1979 (album track from Unknown Pleasures)
To all intents and purposes, Joy Division were a punk band, with all four members inspired by the much-talked-about Sex Pistols gig at Manchester's Lesser Free Trade Hall in June 1976. So it was a sharp contrast and a surprise to many, that they made an album such as Unknown Pleasures, which was, in contrast to their reputation, broody and atmospheric. Nowhere is this better exemplified than with 'Candidate'. The song follows the standard template of a Joy Division track. It begins with the very slowest of build-ups, so much so that it’s near silent for ten seconds. Then, an equally slow fade-in with a dour bass riff and drum tattoo for another 20 seconds. Lyrically, 'Candidate' seems to be about Ian Curtis’ failing relationship with his wife, Deborah: “Forced by the pressure/ the territories marked/ No longer the pleasure/ Oh, I've since lost the heart.” He lays the blame of his affair on his spouse, pointing an accusatory finger of her pushing him away: “I tried to get to you/ you treat me like this..."
'The Drawback' - Warsaw, 1978 (album track from Warsaw)
Warsaw packed a punk punch on this early masterpiece. Intended as the first song on their debut album, ‘The Drawback’ is a short, sharp statement of intent - introducing a band with something to say and in a hurry to say it. The lyrics, opening with the cheery couplet “I’ve seen the troubles and the evils of this world / I’ve seen the stretches between godliness and sin”, are as doom-laden and conflicted as any Ian Curtis would produce and the delivery as urgent, while Sumner’s guitar is very much pre-post punk and Stephen Morris has never drummed faster. Peter Hook would later dismiss ‘The Drawback’ as “the weakest song we did”. But what does he know? Eventually released on the Warsaw LP in 1994, this is 102 seconds of pure punk perfection. And they left it for you. All of this for you…
The Peter Saville Show Soundtrack - New Order, 2003
An interesting aspect of New Order is that their music forms just one part of the overall package. Consider the other components of their imperial phase that add to the bigger picture: Factory Records and its Situationist influences, the Hacienda nightclub, the veil of mystery surrounding the band and of course the iconic record sleeves and the graphic artwork of Peter Saville. With the designer intrinsically linked with New Order, it was only fitting that they were commissioned to create a soundtrack to 2003's London Design Museum retrospective, The Peter Saville Show. Limited to just 3,000 CD editions, the continuous 30-minute piece seamlessly mixes the many sides of New Order - ambient music, electronica, grand sweeps and some of Hooky's most mournful and evocative bass playing – to create what is quite possibly the most unique piece of music in the band’s cannon. In a brilliantly ironic twist, Bernard Sumner, the member widely credited for introducing electronics to New Order, was absent from The Peter Saville Show Soundtrack’s creation which was put together by Stephen Morris, Peter Hook and Phil Cunningham. Not that you’d have noticed. Perhaps the deepest of New Order’s cuts, this is a warm, heartfelt and utterly beautiful composition deserving of a wider audience.
'From Safety To Where' - Joy Division, 1979 (from the Earcom 2: Contradiction EP)
Of all the lazy cliches to attach to Joy Division and New Order, surely the most misleading is the idea that the death of Ian Curtis prompted the rest of the band to step from the darkness into the light. The truth is that, even at their most archetypal gloomy, Joy Division possessed a masterful pop streak – they were often bleak but could be quick-witted and light on their toes too. Nowhere is this unheralded side of the group more apparent than on 'From Safety To Where', an Unknown Pleasures outtake which, with its determined groove and bucking melody, is as accessible as anything New Order would later write. Originally featured on a mini-compilation from Edinburgh's Fast Product, the track was rescued from obscurity when Factory put it on the CD edition of 1988's Substance, the label's never-bettered Joy Division primer. Amidst such acknowledged classics as 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' and 'She's Lost Control', 'From Safety To Where' easily holds its own. There's genuine surprise in the mid-section segue from funeral tempo to jagged chorus while Peter Hook's slowly roiling bass line ranks among his most epic contributions of the Joy Division canon.
But the song is chiefly noteworthy for Curtis's vocals, more off-hand and carefree than almost anything else he would record. Had he lived and made the transition from rock poet to pop star along with the remainder of Joy Division, an alternate future New Order, fronted by Curtis, might have sounded a lot like 'From Safety To Where'. In that respect, this frisky dirge provides a teasing and, yes, haunting, glimpse of what might have been.
'Doubts Even Here' - New Order, 1981 (album track from Movement)
If you repeat something often enough then eventually it will become orthodoxy if not the truth. So it is that the oft-recurring mantra that Power, Corruption And Lies is the first true New Order album has done much to negate the position and perception of 1981’s debut, Movement. True, this is very much a transitional album and one that’s a natural follow-up to Joy Division’s Closer, but taken on its own terms it has much to offer. Featuring a rare foray behind the mic by Peter Hook, with Gillian Gilbert on backing vocals, ‘Doubts Even Here’ is a magnificent beast. Though Movement would be the last time the band worked with producer Martin Hannett amid a deteriorating relationship, his fingerprints are indelibly daubed over the track – the panned drums, the scratchy guitar sitting behind the mix and the echoes throughout are all characteristic trademarks. But this isn’t to take anything away from New Order. Here, the synths are taking a greater role to create an effect that’s simultaneously widescreen yet curiously claustrophobic while Hooky’s two bass parts do much to subvert the role of the instrument. Granted, Hooky’s vocals echo those of the late Ian Curtis but those were indeed big shoes to fill. Nonetheless, Movement is an album in need of re-appraisal and ‘Doubts Even Here’ is one of its highlights but whether we’d even be having this discussion if the band had gone with the name The Witchdoctors Of Zimbabwe is a moot point.
'Hurt' - New Order, 1982 (b-side to 'Temptation')
The lyrical slightness in evidence here gives rise to the notion that ‘Hurt’ is more an exercise in sonic architecture than it is songwriting. Even so, its arrival on the flipside of ‘Temptation’ just a little over six months after the release of Movement showed a band that was already making a quantum leap forward from the gloom of Joy Division and into a digital future. As part of their first self-produced release, New Order had obviously paid attention to the techniques of Martin Hannett. Stephen Morris’ drums are pushed to the fore and sound almost metallic before giving way to a colossal snare drum that almost overwhelms all that’s going on around it. Yet coupled with the sequencers that pulse underneath, the result is a juddering monster with an irresistible mechanised groove. Barney’s melodica gives the track a human, almost childlike touch. But most bizarrely of all, the vocal melody still sounds like something that Duran Duran might have concocted. ‘Temptation’ will always be the track remembered from this time period but ‘Hurt’ proves that the occasional spin of the b-side gives some insight into the overall creative process.
'Interzone' - Joy Division, 1979 (album track from Unknown Pleasures)
Clocking in at just over two minutes, ‘Interzone’ is the moment where Joy Division’s musical and literary influences collide to stunning effect. The most straightforward track recorded by the band, its central riff is lifted wholesale from N.F. Porter’s Northern Soul floor-filler, ‘Keep On Keepin’ On’, which was quite possibly introduced to Joy Division via manager Rob Gretton, himself an aficionado and DJ of Northern Soul. But where the riff comes from the dancefloor, the delivery owes much to The Stooges. Indeed, to listen to the live bootlegs recorded at the time, Joy Division’s delivery reveals the lingering shadow cast by the Detroit quartet. Factor in Ian Curtis’ love of William S. Burroughs – Interzone being one of the bizarre location settings in The Naked Lunch – and the end result is direct and coruscating blast of white heat sharply at odds with what goes on around it.
'Vanishing Point' - New Order, 1989 (album track from Technique)
I think the full extent of 'Vanishing Point''s amazingness came clear to me when they headlined Reading later in 1989. It was the first year the bill went properly indie after featuring Uriah Heep somewhere in the line-up for the previous 40 years. I had spent the day drinking Newcastle Brown and nodding along in horizontal drizzle to Spacemen 3, House of Love and My Bloody Valentine, so by the time New Order turned up I was slightly wankered, damp and merry. Sure, dance music may not have officially come to the festivals yet, but the doof of 'Vanishing Point' - and the rest of Technique blending into the set - followed by 'Temptation', was the first time that field had probably ever felt bass and, for around an hour or so, like the future had arrived.
'Avalanche' - New Order, 1993 (album track from Republic)
The biggest irony for New Order in the wake of the demise of Factory Records was that they, the most Manchester of all the Manchester bands, should end up on, of all places, London Records. Released in 1993, Republic was New Order’s last album before their five-year hiatus and the closing instrumental, ‘Avalanche’, is probably the most lachrymose track the band ever recorded. Even today it sounds like the closing credits of an epic film of love, loss and adventure. Mournful and contemplative, this was an apt curtain call to a story that took ordinary people out of their surroundings to create incredibly extraordinary music.
'Face Up' - New Order, 1985 (album track from Low-Life)
Tucked away at the tail end of Low-Life comes one of New Order’s best songs. Quite at odds with the dark moodiness of the rest of the record, it finishes on the almost jubilant ‘Face Up’. The intro is 40 seconds of a blippy synth nearly tripping over itself, punctuated by gnarly bass, thunderous kick drum, and low choral effects. And then the song proper kicks in with its upbeat major key octave synths, reinforced in the bass just before the minute and a half mark. What’s jarring about all this joy, is that it’s here Bernard Sumner – whose lyrics never stray far from the oblique – comes his closest to recognisably dealing with his feelings about Ian Curtis. That "dying in a lonely place" line at 1:37 specifically referencing one of the last songs Joy Division wrote together (recorded by New Order as the b-side of their first single, ‘Ceremony’). And you can hear it in his voice on the emotional, yet somehow triumphant, chorus: "Oh how I cannot stand the thought of you." For such a charged song, it is strange then that it is equally as memorable for its bad grammar. The very first line: "Ever since I seen your face" could be overlooked but the decision to keep in the third verse’s "Your hair was long, you eyes was blue" is incomprehensible. Correcting it still would’ve rhymed with the following, "Guess what I’m gonna do to you." The verses seem built on facile rhymes but somehow this is transcended to deliver one of New Order’s most powerful songs.
'The Eternal'/'Decades' - Joy Division, 1980 (album tracks from Closer)
Ian Curtis died at 23. Twenty-three. It's almost impossible to comprehend that Closer's ancient, monastic heaviness, as weighted with death as Johnny Cash's final records, came, in many ways, from a heart so young. It's also impossible not to hear these two tracks as a elegiac suite, a two-part swansong moving icily, glacially, to an inevitable ending. Their mood is one of the future, and of futurism, doomed. 'The Eternal''s piano lamentations are bookended by Martin Hannett's slicing static hiss, a biblical plague of insects in an electronic present, a prescient swarming of flies. The metallic clatter of a drum machine follows like a march to the scaffold in 'Decades', as does that distorting synthesiser riff, revealing modern sound decaying, decaying, decayed. The procession moves on, the fighting is over, here are the young men, but where have they been: the lyrics mass like warnings on cold blue neon signs. I see resignation, a funeral, masses waiting at Peter's gates, but also the legacies of war, the loss of a generation. Then come the truly difficult lines, of such hopeless, desperate bleakness that we avoid contemplating their meaning for the person that sings them ("with children my life is so wastefully spent"). As the music fades, we expect it to disappear into the air, but then it flatlines, shows it is over. Giving up, giving in, has rarely given us all this.
'Weirdo' - New Order, 1985 (album track from Brotherhood)
Other than a second of fading tricks, it begins without fuss. “The other day I came across/ Someone I knew and he was lost,” Bernard Sumner sings, voice rising for the last word. On first listen 'Weirdo' sports a punk-ish arrangement, the punkiest since 1981. But the mix plays tricks. Peter Hook’s bass carries the melody, Sumner or Gillian Gilbert’s guitar the rhythm. Stephen Morris adds an extra beat at the end of each verse. Punk destabilized by several years of programming machines, in other words. Brotherhood sports at least four other tunes that pleased the blinkered cohort of New Order’s fan base still pining for music without Emulators. The beauty with which bass and guitar interlock in the final 45 seconds suggest Sumner didn’t know whereof he spoke with that “lock without a key” business. But his truest line spells out the New Order ethos: “So long as I obey this sound that echoes all around.”
'Too Late' - New Order, 1982 (Peel Session)
One of two songs recorded during a 1982 Peel Session, 'Too Late' was never recorded again and never played live. Yet its uneven production (even for a Peel Session) reveals a band that is moving to a more layered and ambitious sound, with its stabbing day-glo synthesizer attacks punctuating the tune. But it’s the dominating low end that channels the sullen vibe of late Joy Division, with Hook’s throbbing bassline completely ruling the mix. It stands in glorious contrast to Sumner’s distant vocal delivery, with none of the immediacy or fire that Ian Curtis would have brought to the party. But it’s redeemed in spades by the chilling lyrics: “It was a hard, hard thing for me to do/ In all that time nobody knew/ Sign of devotion from years before/ Brings me back where I’m afraid to go." By the time the dub-like breakdown occurs Sumner is only able to offer up the pained and whispered chorus of: "Back, back, back to the streets I know." As a song, it’s a shame the band never realised the full potential of its haunting nostalgia.
'Your Silent Face' - New Order, 1982 (album track from Power, Corruption And Lies)