Artist Spotlight: New Order
by Philip Sherburne | January 24, 2013
In a better world, New Order might never have happened at all. They owe their existence, after all, to the suicide of their former Joy Division bandmate, Ian Curtis, who took his own life on May 18, 1980. That group recorded only two albums during its two-year existence; who knows what Joy Division might have become had Curtis remained with us. But the way that Joy Division's remaining members regrouped -- Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris were joined by Morris' girlfriend, Gillian Gilbert -- is one of pop music's greatest Phoenix-from-the-ashes tales. In a career that's now more than three decades long, New Order went from being moody punks to emissaries between synth pop and house music, from there transforming into the alt rock gods that they remain today.
If their debut album, 1981's Movement, marked a transition between Joy Division's desolate post punk and synth pop's sunnier horizons, 1983's Power, Corruption & Lies invented a new sound entirely by yoking together slashing guitars and cavernous echo with Kraftwerk's synthetic gleam and protean electronic pulse; in the process, it launched "Blue Monday" as one of the best-selling 12-inch singles of all time. Low-Life and Brotherhood found them strengthening ties between indie anthems and darkly dramatic club beats; 1989's Technique, recorded in Ibiza, went full-on indie disco, two full decades ahead of their time.
Marking time with Republic and Get Ready, the band hit a wall after 2005's Waiting for the Sirens' Call. Bassist Peter Hook, whose fluid, melodic style was always so crucial to New Order's sound, departed, and the remaining members and their new collaborators became, for all intents and purposes, a touring nostalgia act. Recently, New Order released Lost Sirens, a collection of outtakes from 2005's final sessions with Hook. It's the perfect opportunity to look back at a band that defined its era, several times over.