In the pantheon of British bands, few have the same enduring legacy and history as New Order. Starting out as Joy Division - before morphing into New Order following singer and lyricist Ian Curtis’ tragic death in 1980 - the Mancunian group have been at the vanguard of some of the most exciting, innovative and beautiful pop music that you could possibly imagine. Almost 40 years into their career, and on the cusp of releasing their ninth studio album ‘Music Complete‘, the band continue to be restlessly active.
Many of the best and most exciting musicians of recent memory owe a debt to New Order in some way. The band’s resolutely anti-image persona established in the early 80s is the earlier version of bands like Jungle, who started out rooted in mystery and anonymous mystique. It’s a template established by New Order; from their austere, starkly beautiful Peter Saville-designed artwork, through to their reluctance to speak to the press and make videos. While New Order remain reluctant to give to much away, they can also be relied on to take the piss, in a way that other serious rock bands can’t quite manage. Whether they’re framing their third album ‘Lowlife’ with a black and white arty photo of drummer Stephen Morris’s face, or performing hit single ‘Regret’ on the Baywatch beach on Top Of The Pops, New Order have the power to be subversive and ahead of the curve. It’s a mentality clear in their 2001 comeback single ‘Crystal’. It sparked an idea in the mind of a certain UK indie obsessed Las Vegas dreamer who would go on to become an icon of the contemporary indie scene established by New Order in the 1980s. Incidentally, he’ll play a key role on the band’s new album.
For Brandon Flowers, New Order were a musical revelation. The Killers’ name is taken from the fictional band that starred in ‘Crystal’ and New Order’s influence has been a near constant throughout his career. It’s on his latest album ‘The Desired Effect,’ though, that the influence of New Order is most prominent. The graceful synths and pop swooshes and hooks (no pun intended) are prime quality New Order vintage. It’s easy to see why he has struck up such a strong relationship with the band’s leader and guitarist Bernard Sumner. Indeed, Sumner and Flowers have shared a stage on numerous occasions, most recently in London where they performed New Order’s 1986 track ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’.
It’s hard to overstate now just how much of a risk New Order took in the early days by abandoning traditional punk rock in favour of electronic experimentalism. They had a risk-taking attitude that enabled more and more bands throughout history to let loose and change things up, time and time again. Current bands like Swim Deep and Future Islands continue to show that rock and electronics need not be mutually exclusive. Also, a drunk dad at the disco dance-off between Samuel T. Herring and New Order’s Barney Sumner would be something to behold.
Following years of fallings out between New Order’s prime forces of Hook and Sumner, the band are back at the top of their game
While New Order are understandably feted by indie heroes, it’s within the realm of electronic music that they’re most celebrated. Following the departure of rock-leaning legendary bass player Peter Hook in 2007, the band have resolved to head further down the electronic path. On ’Music Complete’ the band once join forces with Tom Rowlands of The Chemical Brothers as well as working with Elly Jackson of La Roux. For an electronic pop lover like Jackson, New Order approach sacred status. You can barely imagine a pop history without them. The eternal disco anthem of ‘Blue Monday’ is the template for much of the history of modern electronic pop, and a template that La Roux and countless others have followed.
Before bands like New Order started incorporating synths and electronics into their music, indie bands were intensely weary of the corrupting soulless influence of machines. New Order taught people that the dance floor could be just as special a place as the mosh pit. Someone like Elly Jackson perfectly understands the transcendent power of electronic pop that New Order pioneered and as such, she makes a perfect guest on the album, providing vocals on two tracks.
Following years of fallings out between New Order’s prime forces of Hook and Sumner, the band are back at the top of their game. Ready to face a bright new musical future informed by their past and filled with the promise of future glory carried along with the legions of musicians and icons they continue to inspire.