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New Order
Lost Sirens Mick Middles , February 1st, 2013 05:35

The portents were not good. A mini album featuring eight outtakes from New Order's rather lackadaisical 2005 album, Waiting for the Siren's Call hardly made me bubble with feverish anticipation. While 'Siren's had its moments, it disappointingly proved to be the sound of a famously splintering dynamic and, frankly, a place where the magic had finally started to run dry.

The band's haphazard British tour of the same time only served to confirm these suspicions. Barney grumpy, Hooky aloof, Morris scowling behind the drums. New Order, one of the greatest and most distinctive British bands of the 80s and 90s, always seemed like slaves to their own curious mix of personality, angst, naiveté and sheer bloody minded arrogance. Take those defining aspects away and you are left with an empty palette.

For the most part, Lost Sirens does little to alter this rather sad affair, despite its historical significance. For it is the last New Order album to feature the driving bass and growl of Peter Hook. Unless, that is, the major Mancunian rift miraculously twists into back-slapping camaraderie. Doubt it, frankly.

So here we are. Sifting through the debris. One play is enough to confirm that defining moments refuse to peak through the murk. Oddly for New Order, who always so effortlessly seemed to stumble upon the shards of their own genius, this is a somewhat rounded album where even Hooky's low-end resonance presence remains intriguingly muted. In place of time honoured New Order sound, we find a tenuous mush that, while never astounding, is not necessarily unattractive.

The marriage between electro-pulse and Barney's spindly guitar works well on 'Californian Grass', which is as dreamy and introspective as the title suggests, as is the lilting 'I Stay With You'. However, while Barney remains one of the most underrated guitarists of the past 30 years; his vocal-timing here constantly fails to command attention. Also missing is his loveable steely belligerence. Indeed, these sound like pilot vocals on initial work-outs, which could easily be the case.

Only one track truly holds any trace of surprise. The closing, 'I Told You So', casts the mind back to The Velvet Underground's subversive classic 'Venus In Furs' which is not, frankly, where I expected this album, or indeed Hooky period New Order to lead to. Nevertheless, it offers the only moments of true intensity on an album that might have faired better as an additional curiosity on some lavish box set. Lost Sirens is effectively an exercise in feeding the completists.

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