Playing God
New Order: Movement

after Ian Curtis, lead singer of post-punk legends Joy Division, decided to hang himself in his home in mid-1980, the remaining members made the bold and unexpected move to continue on without him, adding keyboardist Gillian Gilbert to the lineup and renaming themselves New Order. But, as pointed out in the recent film adaptation of the Factory Records (home to JD and later NO) saga, “no band survives the death of their lead singer.” And from a cursory listen to their debut album, Movement, this statement couldn’t be more true—New Order here sounds like a far lesser Joy Division, obviously lacking the insightful lyrics, sharp songwriting and vocal distinctiveness of their departed leader. Produced by Joy Division producer of choice, Martin Hannett, the album feels like an inescapable void, sucking out all passion, feeling and creativity from the band and leaving (especially on the truly unbearable second side) nothing more than an extremely dull album.

The public and critical reception of this album reflected this opinion, as the album stalled at #30 on the UK charts and was slammed by nearly everyone. But then, just as everyone reasonably was about to write New Order off as an abortion of an idea, they released a series of hit singles and a top five album (Power, Corruption & Lies) that cemented the lads as one of the most creative and important dance forces in the U.K. This must’ve been quite the surprise to everyone—everyone, that is, except those paying extremely close attention, because those people would have realized that the seeds for New Order’s greatness were there all along.

Around the time of Movement, New Order released many tracks that didn’t make the album as singles, b-sides and Peel sessions—all of which were better than at least half the tracks that ended up making it onto Movement. These tracks comprise what Movement should have been—essentially, where Joy Division ends and New Order begins, a sound that while still rooted in the JD formula, was beginning to show sure signs of distinctiveness that pointed the way to later classics like Power, Corruption & Lies, “Temptation” and, of course, “Blue Monday.” So, here, I have brutally slaughtered the original line-up of Movement and brought in a whole host of ringers to demonstrate what New Order’s debut album could have--and should have--been.

01. In a Lonely Place (Ceremony B-Side)
And so my Movement begins, essentially, with a Joy Division song. This song was written by Ian Curtis, and a demo version with him singing was even later released on Joy Division’s Heart and Soul box set. And its nature is quite evident—the dark, despairing lyrics and death march tone could only have been penned by Curtis. But in the hands of New Order and through the mouthpiece of new lead vocalist Bernard “Barney” Sumner, the song essentially becomes what original Movement centerpiece “I.C.B.” (not included on this edition) tried to stand for—Ian Curtis Buried. “How I wish you were here with me now,” the chorus goes, and as such, New Order gives up Ian’s ghost, getting on with becoming their own band.

02. Cries and Whispers (Everything’s Gone Green B-Side)
Now, a clearly more developed New Order track. After the tomb-like atmosphere of “In a Lonely Place,” the rather upbeat (though still relatively subdued) “Cries and Whispers” is quite an enjoyable respite, and the song is fabulous—very close to original Movement highlight “Chosen Time” in tempo and accessibility. Recently, there’s been quite a mix-up between this song and “Mesh,” another b-side from the time period, essentially because “Cries and Whispers” was mislabeled as “Mesh” on the New Order compilation Substance. The real “Mesh” will come later.

03. Everything’s Gone Green (non-album single/Procession b-side)
By far the most heavily synthesized New Order track of the time period, it’s also one of the most forward looking. Joy Division often flirted with dance music on tracks like “Isolation,” “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” and especially the highly influential 12” mix of “She’s Lost Control,” but never came anywhere near as EGG does to straight club music--the single even made a brief cameo on the US club charts. It’s one of a handful of New Order tracks from ‘81-’83—along with “586,” “Hurt” and “Video 586”—that hinted at the huge leap forward that New Order were soon to make with the landmark “Blue Monday.” And it’s fabulous in its own right, too, bearing all the hallmarks of great New Order music—catchy, innovative, and instantly memorable

04. Chosen Time (original album track)
One of the only two tracks from the original Movement that I consider album-worthy, “Chosen Time” is a wonderful low-key dance groove, with one of drummer Stephen Morris’s most blatantly disco beats and something that 75% of Movement is missing—hooks. They’re all over the place. Even though Martin Hannett tries his damndest to smother the boys in his atmospherics through all of Movement, here his laser noises and warped production actually helps “Chosen Time” to shine brighter.

05. Turn the Heater On (Peel Session)
Side one closes with a cover of reggae kingpin Keith Hudson’s “Turn the Heater On,” one of the few covers, live or otherwise, that New Order have performed in their lifetime. Barney insists “Gonna beat them all, gonna beat them all, tonight” over sparse guitar shreds and low, echoey drum and bass. It’s a truly hypnotic dub, and unlike most of the similarly slow originals that appeared on Movement, it’s actually interesting, even musically appealing.

06. Dreams Never End (original album track)
Originally, Movement opened with “Dreams Never End,” a rather deceitful gambit that was an extremely poor representation of the album on a whole (a representation quickly shattered by the next track, the chilling but relatively boring dirge “Truth”). R.E.M.-sounding guitars jangle all over the place, the rhythm is insistent and driving, and it actually sounds...bright, hopeful, as previous Stylus writer Keith Gwillim described it, “like the first rays of sunshine on a sheet of winter ice.” As a matter of fact, it’s the best song on the album by some margin, and even on this edit, it’s a standout, and a fine side-two opener. And it’s also likely to be the only chance you’ll ever get to hear too-cool bassist Peter Hook sing on a New Order record.

07. Mesh (Everything’s Gone Green b-side)
Now, the real “Mesh,” the one that didn’t appear on Substance. Led by one of Hooky’s best early bass lines and a slowed version of the shuffling “Chosen Time” beat, the song loses momentum only for those ill-advised war-march breaks. Even with Gillian’s keyboards, it’s a relatively raw sound for early New Order, and a worthy (if somewhat lesser) inclusion on my Movement, and a wonderful transition track.

08. Procession (Non-album single)
Although this was originally the A-side of the “Everything’s Gone Green/Procession” single, for some reason it was included on the second disc of Substance instead of with the rest of the singles as it belongs. As it stands, it’s even more impressive than EGG, a New Order song that’s haunting, for the first time, in a way completely independent of Joy Division. It’s got some of Barney’s best lyrics, too—he never really excelled at crafting cohesive poems the way Ian did, but rather he came up with individually striking lines—like the opening “there is no end to this,” the closing “your heart beats you late at night,” or even the repeated “alone, alone” refrain. Including some of the best keyboards to ever appear on a NO single (quite a feat, needless to say) and characteristically awesome Hooky bass, this is a true lost New Order classic.

09. Ceremony (Non-album single)
And so Movement is bookended with the two sides of the Ian Curtis-penned debut New Order single. But unlike “In a Lonely Place,” “Ceremony” bears no signs of being a Joy Division song. The tone is uplifting, the vocals are far more Barney than Ian, the hooks seem just too bright to be from the man who penned “The Eternal” and “Shadowplay.” The lyrics are almost totally incomprehensible, so they don’t get in the way of “Ceremony” being a truly joyous and celebratory occasion. So if my Movement began with “In a Lonely Place,” the funeral for Ian Curtis, it’s simply entirely appropriate that Movement, a true transition album, should end with the rebirth of Joy Division as New Order. And that is “Ceremony.”

By: Andrew Unterberger
Published on: 2003-07-22
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