ASSEMBLING NEW ORDER FROM THE CHAOTIC RELATIONSHIPS WITHIN, BUT MAKING NO REAL NEW SENSE OF THEM, THE GROUP’S MUCH-DELAYED NINTH ALBUM – LOST SIRENS – FINALLY FINDS PUBLIC VOICE THIS WEEK.
“There’s a lot going on behind-the-scenes to do with copyrights,” said multi-instrumentalist Gillian Gilbert during an interview in 2012, dipping her foot into the murky waters of business submerged in personal recrimination, and pulling out a deadpan toe for journalists to line.
Interestingly, Gilbert herself (back in the fold as a member of the reformed and touring New Order since 2011, following a decade away) does not actually feature on the new record.
Peter Hook, who is most definitely not in the fold and seems highly unlikely to ever be so again (busy writing books about The Haçienda or Joy Division, slinging bass on representations of old albums with his touring outfit The Light, and being publically grizzly about not being informed in advance of the decision to reform New Order without him), does.
It seems a sad state of affairs that a band of New Order’s importance has reached Rolling Stones’ levels of interpersonal dysfunction but, on reflection, a glance through Hook’s books, or Tony Wilson’s 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE, confirms that soap opera was often the status quo.
Here, LOST SIRENS feels like it has been mixed to accomodate the former bass player’s presence – perhaps, in part, what any legal tussle was about – but it’s very much Bernard Sumner’s record. There have been whispers from Sumner about new material later in the year, so this album seems a strangely backwards-looking statement for a re-emergent version of the band to make, capturing a snapshot of a long defunct line-up in relative creative freefall.
Installed at Real World in 2003 and 2004 for the recording of WAITING FOR THE SIREN’S CALL, a studio bill approaching three-quarters-of-a-million pounds was the significant ultimate result of the sessions – the album was decent though merely perfunctory.
Unable to conjure the old magic, or even a scientific alchemy, New Order’s chemistry had been irrevocably altered by Gilbert’s departure – it’s the quiet ones you have to watch. The arrival of ex-Marion guitarist Phil Cunningham seemed like it might be relatively energising, but it’s clear that it became something of a struggle for everyone to settle down. Within a year of the release of the album, New Order finally fell apart. Acrimoniously.
All concerned have claimed the songs featured on LOST SIRENS were held over with deliberate intent for a relatively hot-on-the-heels follow up album (though undoubtedly it would have carried a different title to the one it labours under in 2013), but New Order’s collapse means that the recordings have been languishing half-forgotten in the vaults. Perhaps it’s taken someone’s monumental effort – crusade, even – to have them released at all, but it feels unlikely that any mission to get this record out can have been engined by deep artistic pride.
It’s not that LOST SIRENS is a particularly bad record – were New Order ever even capable of such a thing? – but it’s not a particularly good New Order record. Despite a couple of decent moments, there is nothing that leaves one pinned to a wall in quite the way that POWER, CORRUPTION AND LIES did. There is nothing to urge on euphoria in quite the way that BIZARRE LOVE TRIANGLE, TEMPTATION or even the band’s last great song, the radio-slaying REGRET, could. Certainly, there is nothing approaching the peerless rushing uplift and ecstasy of TECHNIQUE’s hypnotic electro-noir pulse.
Opener I’LL STAY WITH YOU begins with great techno promise, quite reminiscent of the darkly bubbling growth in the opening bars of Depeche Mode’s ENJOY THE SILENCE, but that is quickly concreted over by some slabbish mid-pace rock. CALIFORNIAN GRASS and I’VE GOT A FEELING are similarly obscured. RECOIL is unusual, an attractively lounging instrumental, while SHAKE IT UP sounds like Sumner’s time in Electronic, most specifically knocking about with Pet Shop Boys, brought some influence to bear on the Real World sessions. A retooled version of I TOLD YOU SO, from WAITING FOR THE SIREN’S CALL, is one of the few genuinely ear-pricking moments here. Pounding 1960s drums, guitar drone and atmospheric sound effects stretch it far beyond the self-consciously New-Order-by-numbers constraints of its original mix, virtually reworking it as ALL TOMORROW’S PARTIES.
Ultimately, LOST SIRENS plays like it should be the accompanying disc on some quietly reissued future version of WAITING FOR THE SIREN’S CALL. To put it out as a standalone album feels a bit like making the same mistake twice.
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