Monday, January 5, 2009

New Order - "Movement" (LP Review)

In 1980, right as Joy Division was poised for major commercial success, Ian Curtis (lead singer) committed suicide. The three remaining members of Joy Division formed as New Order. Very shortly afterwards Gillian Gilbert (Stephen Morris's then girlfriend and now wife) was added to make New Order a 4 piece. The subject of Curtis and Joy Division has been covered in various films (e.g. Control, 24 Hour Party People) and documentaries (e.g., Joy Division). I have no new insights to offer there.

Furthermore, when most people think of New Order they think of Bizarre Love Triangle, Blue Monday and the various other mid- and late-1980s dance synth-pop singles they released (and the dozens of associated remixes).

Released in 1981, "Movement" is the sound of a band in transition from the post-punk sound of Joy Division to the synth band New Order would become several years later. Most people don't especially care of this LP for those reasons: it is neither Joy Division (b/c of Curtis's absence), nor New Order (in the conventional sense).

I, however, really like this LP because of its transitional sound. Many songs are arranged like their dance singles would be arranged, but the technology hasn't caught up (so the synthesizer parts are limited and conventional instruments often used in their place) and consequently the sound is not marred by the cheesy, mid-80's "casio sound" that limits my enjoyment of New Order's later LPs. JD/NO were/are first rate song writers, and this LP is solid from start to finish. The shadow of Curtis looms over this LP -- neither Bernard Sumner nor Stephen Hook sing with his confidence (but who does?) and many of the songs sound like what the next Joy Division LP would have sounded like (indeed, some of the singles from this era were unrecorded Joy Division songs).

The only thing preventing this record from receiving a higher score is that it lacks strong, stand-out singles. That is because their strongest singles of this era: Ceremony, Procession, Everything's Gone Green, Temptation, were all released only as singles and not included on a studio LP. There is a 2008 collector's edition that collects these singles, alternate versions and b-sides onto a bonus disc for "Movement" and that would look to be the version to get if you don't already have this LP (or "Substance").

Standout tracks: Dreams Never End, The Him (live Glastonbury 1981, live Hamburg 1981), Denial. (1981-1982 era singles not on LP: Ceremony, Procession, Everything's Gone Green, Temptation -- thanks to those who posted these amazing, rare clips on YouTube).

Skip 'em tracks: none.

Final score: 7/10 (original version as released in 1981).
If the 4 singles had originally appeared on the LP, it would have rated a 9/10.

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