Album: Brotherhood, 1986
Justification: I preferred when my feelings about New Order were unambiguously ambiguous. I always felt I was a little too uncool for them, with their arty Peter Saville record sleeves that I collected judiciously (on 7″, because I wasn’t cool enough to get their 12″s), despite the fact that I’ve never loved a single one of their albums – thought their 1987 Substance compilation was and is one of the most perfect collections of songs ever created (and I’m just going to say it: the re-recording of ‘Temptation’ shits all over the original). I’ve generally thought they were deliberately snarky in interviews, that Bernard Sumner was an abysmal lyricist, that none of them were really much good as musicians, and that it was something between sheer luck and keyboardist Gillian Gilbert that made them just so happen to write incredible song after incredible song for the best part of a decade.
Nowadays I have the added difficulty that they lack the band’s most volatile personality in loudmouth bassist Peter Hook, who has enjoyed a running argument with Sumner since about 1989 which ended in his 2007 announcement that the band had split up, which lead to a war of words over who owned the name and what constituted New Order. I’d probably care a little bit more if either of the following two things were not true:
- New Order’s post-hiatus material wasn’t exactly top notch (Get Ready is OK, Waiting for the Siren’s Call is bollocks), and
- New Order are really not that great live, due primarily to the fact that Stephen Morris is a terrible, terrible drummer – which, for a dance act, is a bit of a problem. When they defer to the drum machines, as on ‘Blue Monday’, the problem is that Sumner can’t sing.
So I’m left in the situation where one of my favourite bands of all time is one I don’t even like. Do you appreciate how damn confusing that is?
Still, this song is amazing – and humanised the band a hell of a lot for me as it made me aware that they weren’t magical synth alchemists. This was down to my early 1987 acquisition of a Yahama DX-27 synth (the fiddlier younger brother of the DX-7), which revealed that New Order didn’t even create their own sounds – that bass sound that underpins ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ is an off-the-rack Yamaha synth preset (bank B, voice 4 as I recall – and the bass sound from ‘Blue Monday’ is voice 2). I guess there’s an outside chance that the company’s synth wizards were using New Order as their inspiration for their 1987 range, but if so they were pretty damn quick off the draw. More likely the band were in the studio, fiddling with their new toys, hit a key and went “hey, nice sound, that’ll do the trick” – and bless ’em for it.
Anyway, this was the single that made me fall in love with the band, just like ’60 Miles an Hour’ was the single that convinced me that we should see other bands.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2011: It was Canadian would-be power-pop in the form of Hot Hot Heat and ‘Bandages’.
AND HERE’S THE LAST FIVE…