Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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New Order

  • Movement [Factory, 1981] B+
  • 1981-1982 [Factus, 1981] B+
  • Power, Corruption and Lies [Factus, 1983] B+
  • Low Life [Qwest, 1985] B+
  • Brotherhood [Qwest, 1986] A
  • Substance [Qwest, 1987] A
  • Technique [Qwest, 1989] B+
  • Republic [Qwest/Warner Bros., 1993] ***
  • The Best of New Order [Qwest/Warner Bros., 1995] A
  • Get Ready [Reprise, 2001] A-
  • Waiting for the Sirens' Call [Warner Bros., 2005] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Movement [Factory, 1981]
For months I've sworn to concentrate on the lyrics and be done with this goddamn record, but it ain't gonna happen. The singing isn't literally inaudible, but it is literally unprojected, much less noticeable than the surrounding drum, guitar, and synthesizer rhythms/effects. Very atmospheric--the spaceship as sepulcher, with a beat. And as long as I literally don't have to hear their doomy doggerel, not a bad way to go. B+

1981-1982 [Factus, 1981]
Bargain hunters shouldn't pass up this chance to own "Temptation" plus-four for close to the price of the twelve-inch. But I don't call the twelve-inch "Temptation"/"Hurt" for the same reason I can't remember which of the four is which after playing them all fifteen times. "Temptation" is where Manchester's finest stop hearing ghosts and stake their claim to a danceable pop of unprecedented grimness and power. If it isn't the definition of romantic obsession, it's even richer than I think it is. But it's also the first real song this sharp-cornered sound-and-groove band has ever come up with. B+

Power, Corruption and Lies [Factus, 1983]
The second or third Joy Division II album has occasioned disputation among the faithful. Some claim that it cynically recycles their riffs, while others think it raises that old new music to transcendent summits. Me, I find it relatively gentle and melodic in its ambient postindustrial polyrhythms, their nicest record ever. I also think it sounds pretty much like the others. B+

Low Life [Qwest, 1985]
Where once they determined to keep all affect out of their music, now they determine to put some in. Any dance-trance outfit that can lead off its Quincy Jones debut with an oblique "Love Me Do" quote has its heart (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) in the right place, so one doesn't want to quibble. But inserting affect isn't the same as actually feeling something, and it isn't the same as expressing (or even simulating) a feeling, either. B+

Brotherhood [Qwest, 1986]
I never knew why their definitive electrodisco impressed me more than it moved me, and now I don't know why it has me rocking out of my chair or grinning foolishly as I forage for dinner at the supermarket. The tempos are a touch less stately, the hooks a touch less subliminal. Bernard Albrecht's vocals have taken on so much affect they're humane. And the joke closer softens up a skeptic like me to the pure, physically exalting sensation of the music. A

Substance [Qwest, 1987]
Twelve cuts, eleven previously released some way or other, five available some way or other on U.S. albums, only one in this form. The emphasis is on twelve-inch mixes, with a new vocal patched into the hallowed "Temptation." The double-CD includes a whole extra disc of collectorama, but the double vinyl has no fat: it does nothing less than show off the greatest disco band of the '80s except Chic, and these guys outlasted Chic. Of course, not until Chic was gone did their disco dwell fully among us. The secret of Bernard Albrecht's elementary vocals, Gillian Gilbert's two-finger exercises, Peter Hook's strummed bass, and the compressed physicality of Steve Morris's drums was never virtuosity--it was conception, timing, rapport, devotional concentration. Originally attracted to disco because it was trancelike, they broke through when they devised a system of kinetic percussion and hypnotic chants to keep themselves awake. Cultists miss the murk of the early mixes, but I prefer them hyped and speeded up. Pure rhythm machine with an ironically mysterious overlay of schlocky melody to help it go down, this album is a case study in sensationalist art, and I say the world is better for it. A

Technique [Qwest, 1989]
The catchy Anglodisco gloom fans have complained about ever since the band lightened up finally arrives, and it's a lot franker and happier (hence smarter) than Depeche Mode. But now that Bernard is a full-fledged human being, we find out he's a slightly boring human being. Is this why he was always in the dumps? B+

Republic [Qwest/Warner Bros., 1993]
not techno and proud ("Regret," "Young Offender") ***

The Best of New Order [Qwest/Warner Bros., 1995]
Marvel all you want over Ian Curtis's desperation--I dig the band on the matched Joy Division comp Permanent and prefer detached techie Bernard Albrecht here. Where 1987's Substance showcased the music's remixed, interwoven glory, this pushes Albrecht's mild-mannered vocals as far front as they'll go. Turns out he has normal feelings about love and rejection and such, dislikes war and guns without getting preachy--just super-unassumingly super-catchy, as befits Britannia's ranking pop group. I mean, could Blur or Oasis write a World Cup anthem so rousing, danceable, and informative? A

Get Ready [Reprise, 2001]
Obviously it's not perky enough, funky enough either, but their best (and third) album in 15 years (and probably last ever) sounds an awful lot like what kids today call pop. Electronic aura, hooks up front, Bernard Albrecht as boyish as Damon Albarn if not an actual young person, and generalized lyrics affirming a pre-9/11 reality. Give "Crystal" or the attempted Billy Corgan comeback "Turn My Way" a host of video cuties and innocents will think the mysterioso raveups are a new species of fun. Which in the better world we all deserve they'd deserve to be. A-

Waiting for the Sirens' Call [Warner Bros., 2005] Dud