New Order - Power Corruption And Lies
Having just fought their way back into some semblance of order after Ian Curtis's suicide killed off Joy Division, the remaining band members reformed as New Order and struck out on a different route. Keen to position themselves as anything other than a Joy Division clone, the band experimented with a different sound and the early years were a clear display of this innovation and soul seeking. Keen not to follow too blindly the paths of the post punks, for which they were undoubtedly seen as a major influence in view of the role Joy Division played in that genre, New Order quickly moved away from that style of music. That was a shame because they could have developed a distinctive sound within post punk. One can only suspect the need to distance themselves from the themes which had so engulfed the life of Ian Curtis.
Their first single was the incredible "Ceremony" backed by the even more incredible "In a Lonely Place", and that was followed up by what, in my humble opinion, remains the greatest ever dance track of all time, "Blue Monday". But these singles were not the true New Order. They marked a band in transition, from what they were to what they would eventually become. Putting aside the obviousness of that last remark, New Order almost seemed as if they had to exercise the ghosts of Joy Division before they could truly become a different band.
Power, Corruption and Lies captures the band on the cusp their "Blue Monday" moment striking out towards the techno-dance for which they later became famous. Thankfully, they had not left behind their post punk roots by the time it came out and so the album still contains enough of the melancholic music which characterised that era, and made it such a fantastic time for music. However, it is far from a perfect album and is too flawed to be considered great.
Part of the problem lies with the fact that Bernard Sumner simply wasn't a vocalist. He could just about sing, provided what he was asked to do was not too taxing. The moment he was expected to rise to the occasion, he failed, not having a voice strong enough or an ear good enough to hold a key for too long. "We All Stand" demonstrates this better than any bother song on the album. The other problem was the distinctive wobble of Peter Hook's bass. It certainly adds a unique feel to it, but there is always the feeling lurking in the background that the wobble was there to cover up deficiencies in ability, rather than as a deliberate stylistic signature. As a result, many of the songs on the album fall somewhat flat. This is particularly true for the second side where most of the tracks are forgettable.
The opener, "Age of Consent", is probably the strongest track on the album. "The Village" is perhaps not far behind. But the constant shift in tempo across the first side provides a rather disjointed feel which is difficult to overcome. As mentioned earlier, the second side is nowhere near as strong, and given that the first side is not particularly strong, that is saying something. Perhaps the most notable thing is not what there is on the album, but what there is not. "Blue Monday" was not included on the album, even though (perhaps because of the fact) it was the UK's biggest selling twelve inch vinyl ever. Not that Factory ever made much money from this - the cost of manufacturing and distributing "Blue Monday", with its unique cover sleeve, was in excess of the revenue it generated.
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