Top Ten Reasons Why “Bizarre Love Triangle” > “Blue Monday”
rom the instant kick of the bass-into-drums intro to the insistent keyboard stabs to those delirium-inducing strings, New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle" whups the hide of their more-than-ubiquitous "Blue Monday" by a country mile. Yet it remains in the shadow of its earlier cousin in terms of accolades and cultural cachet. This is inexcusable, for it's in all ways a better tune.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a firm believer that "Blue Monday" is one of the most significant and influential tracks in the history of dance and rock music. I'm also a firm believer in the notion that "Blue Monday" was New Order's first step into their newly full-on style, a style they would perfect three years later with "Bizarre Love Triangle." And, though it makes one look like a sandwich and the other something that happens on the toilet, I will henceforth refer to the songs as "BLT" and "BM," respectively. Brevity is essential when discussing tracks that stretch infinite-wise into the ether in the name of unzipped thrills and baggy-panted dancing.
10. The Video
OK, this one’s cheating a bit since there is no video for BM, but even if there were, BLT's would still be better—a gloriously clumsy / perfect collage of coy Koyaanisqatsi life-cycling-past and urban hum. The classic moment comes when the song is inexplicably stopped for a brief sequence clearly shot on video but still trying to look "vintage," in which a truly bizarre exchange about reincarnation occurs. Like, cosmic!
09. The Sleeve
Stretching it a bit further—I don't mean to suggest that BLT's color-by-color rip of the Pet Shop Boys Disco jacket in any way trumps the floppy disc fantastic of BM, but let us recall that such finery actually lost Factory money. At least when BLT hit some of the cash being stuffed into the cavernous maw of the Haçienda could be recouped. But, now, the songs:
08. The Remixes
The brilliant, suave Shep Pettibone extended version from the CD-5 is one thing, but BLT has been worked-over more times than a Tijuana whore, everyone from Armand Van Helden to Richard X laying eager hands upon its booty-loose bass and swoop-de-dooping strings. With almost universally excellent results. Name one good remix of "Blue Monday." That isn't the bands own '88 reworking or Shep's treatment of said rework. Can't do it, can you?
07. The Dubs
Sure, we all love a trip to "The Beach," especially if we've brought along a nice basket of "Sandwiches." But "I Don't Care!" The BLT instrumental shatters BM's into disco-shrapnel, especially in its co-opting of dub's mixing-board techniques to produce results that don't sound self-consciously "dubby."
06. The Covers
OK, so Frente's version isn't exactly in my Recently Played folder either, but it's at least cute. And it showed that the strength of the original wasn't just in the production and beats, but the tune itself. When Fluke attempted the same treatment on BM, they only showed the paucity of melody that New Order concealed beneath machines. Not that BM is a bad tune—it's just a glorified doo-wop one. I'm just going to mention Orgy.
05. The Soundalikes
Maybe you can write it off as equipment limitations circa '83-'84, but there are at least a hundred songs that have almost the exact same drum break and keyboard sound as BM. Half of them are by Bobby O. C'mon, go ahead and listen to "Givin' Up." Now tell me it's not the same fucking song. And speaking of drums:
04. The Drum Break
I know this is heresy in certain circles, but "dik-dik-dik-dididididididik" just doesn't really do it for me. The stuttering break in BLT, however? That's my shit right there.
03. The Strings
Oh, man. It took seven years to reclaim the use of strings in dance music from the excess of the late disco period, but it was totally worth the wait, wasn't it? I get a sheer euphoric rush every time those synthetic fiddles come on and shepherd you into the swirling rush of the chorus. Totally kicks the chorus of BM in the arse. If there was one to kick.
02. The Exposure
Just say it with me: "The Wedding Singer." BM has become such a cultural prop that no one on the face of the earth really needs to hear it again. BLT has eluded this (so far), ensuring that you can actually play it at a dance party and not be subject to a million rolled eyes.
01. The Vagueness
I'm not going to claim that the lyrics to BM are transparently clear. I mean, what exactly is up with that "ship in the harbor?" But for those who praise Sumner's ability to make some of the finest emotional pop music by making as little cohesive sense as love itself, BLT is a goldmine of evocative nothings, 5 A.M. slurred whispers and breathy uncertainties. It's in its lack of specificity that BLT soars—it's pretty clear that the narrator of BM is feeling quite victimized, but in BLT he's wonderfully uncertain who to accuse. My secret theory is that the third party in this song is not some man or woman that's come between the narrator and his paramour, but rather the insidious act of love itself that has proven their undoing.
Perhaps the wisdom of the fool won't set you free, Bernie. However, it may just do for the rest of us.
By: Mallory O’Donnell
Published on: 2006-09-01