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New Order – Three Singles August 3, 2006

Posted by reidmix in Labels, Music, Reviews, Song Reviews.
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Ceremony, Everything's Gone Green, Temptation, and Substance 1987Reviewing to the Loving Sounds of Static got me listening to the first three singles off of the New Order Substance 1987 compilation. As we approach the 20th anniversary of that compilation (oh my!) and next month the 25th anniversary of the release of the single “Everything’s Gone Green”, I can easily say, those early singles are still relevant and poignant — they sound as if they could have been release this year.

My first exposure to New Order was marked by the release of Substance 1987 (yes, in 1987). The first three singles have always been intrinsically linked in my mind and mark the tone for the rest of the album. Ironically, these songs transition the band from the suicide of Ian Curtis and with it New Order’s prior incarnation, Joy Division, to the dance-y sensibilities in their later years.

This transitionary period caused these songs to be unlike any other in New Order’s catalog. “Ceremony” — originally written as a Joy Division song — opens the trilogy with a conversation between guitars before the unsure lyrics begin, the strongest of which “Heaven knows, its got to be this time” still cannot hold against the melodies of the song.

Where “Ceremony” is shy and introductory, “Everything’s Gone Green” tells us that New Order is introspective but present — their first song to contain electronic computer-based sounds. They play like synth-crickets over the beginning of the song and later comprise of the syncopated bass-line that ends it. “Help me, somebody help me,” begins the lyrics, “I wonder where I am.” We can see the band’s identity crisis and the song sums up with pleas to “show me, please show me the way.”

“Temptation” completes the cycle, the band fully realized. We can feel it right at the beginning of the song: the central melody rising up in falsetto. The electronics and guitars build up the melody, playing off each other. No longer needing direction, the band strikes its independence with “Up, down, turn around / Please don’t let me hit the ground / Tonight I think I’ll walk alone / I’ll find my soul as I go home.”

By the time we reach “Blue Monday” in the compilation, the trilogy is a lost memory and the band goes on to become what they are today. But everytime I hear one of the three songs, I am transported back to 1987 and the way I felt in those high school years.

But the trilogy has an immediacy, profundity and intimacy that sets the songs apart from any other music in the eighties: they set like a keystone for my formative years, for the band, or for all of music.

I turned to my good friend Roberta, when “Ceremony” appeared in a trailer for Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, and said “There will never be songs like this, again.”

Discovered on MTV’s 120 Minutes when they played the “Bizarre Love Triangle” video. I could only find Substance 1987 for online listening at Amazon.

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