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New Order - The Singles

2006-03-30 12:10

Blue Monday comes in at Number 5 - the fifth single released by the band called New Order. It is also the track that catapulted them to international stardom, and the mass popularity they openly desired as a band. And that is telling, because the previous four tracks are basically a soundtrack for Joy Division's funeral, a path that surely would have led the band to a legendary, if obscure placement in rock's anti-history.

Such as it is, "Blue Monday" was such a big hit, that it buoyed New Order (and its subsequent sound) for near-on twenty years. The band only ever had similar longevity with "Bizarre Love Triangle" (maybe), but that was enough to keep New Order on the mainstream radar while several of their contemporaries produced more accessible, often better, or largely underrated efforts (look to Simple Minds - New Gold Dream, Talk Talk - The Colour of Spring and The Cure - The Top as examples).

Still, some bits of New Order's vast catalogue do remain interesting: The original version of "Confusion" is laughably quaint compared to its powerhouse re-invention by Pump Panel for the Blade soundtrack; "Sub-culture" would be referenced several years later by the Pet Shop Boys around their Very era (1993); "True Faith" prefaced the onslaught of Italo house music (!); and so on.

New Order was one of the earliest new wave bands to embrace the concept of singles as standalone issues - remixes and alternate versions of songs that may or may not have even featured on albums at all - after all, "Blue Monday" is recognised as the first rock/house 12" crossover hit. As a working band they had a different approach, which probably earns them a piece of pop kudos in the big picture.

But that in itself hasn't necessarily bought them a permanent seat at the Grand Legends table. Whereas Joy Division applied itself meaningfully to the art of redefining popular expression, New Order in retrospect feels more like a band of post-goth techno-hippies employing "ceremony" in lieu of "substance" - if you'll pardon the expression.

- Anton Marshall

Getting the obvious out of the way, plebeians will be happy to know that "Blue Monday" still sounds the same as it did in 1983. And 1988, when the reissue came out. Both versions are on this double disc. Yay! Let's move on.


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