Power, Corruption & Lies – New Order (1983)

When Ian Curtis committed suicide on May 18, 1980, Joy Division died with him. The other devastated members of the post-punk group, just on the cusp of greatness, had to decide what to do in the wake of Curtis’ death. They decided to reinvent themselves as New Order, adding keyboardist Gillian Gilbert to help create a new sound.

If New Order’s first album, 1981’s Movement, was the sound of them wandering in the wilderness searching for direction, then Power, Corruption & Lies is them finding the promised land. It’s fortunate that the band cut its teeth beforehand on three singles, one of which was “Blue Monday,” considered by many to be the greatest 12-inch single and dance track ever released. (The song wasn’t included on the original vinyl release of Power, Corruption & Lies but was on the cassette version and subsequent CDs.) “Blue Monday” is sterile, robotic and hypnotic. The electronic drums pound away as new lead vocalist Bernard Sumner asks, “How does it feel?” It’s as if he is numb to all emotion, and all the listener can do in response is dance.

New Order’s promised land

The album begins with the addictive “Age of Consent,” which sounds like a lost Joy Division track on Prozac. With the beat set to a fast tempo and the band playing in a major key, Sumner’s voice is a clear distinction from Curtis’ off-key warbling, especially when he goes up an octave to tell us, “I’m not the kind that likes to tell you just what you want me to.” Then we hear a synthesizer mimicking a string ensemble, and it brings New Order into the 80s.

“The Village” gives us a glimpse into what the band would eventually become: a danceable synth-pop band who would become known for such hit singles as “Bizarre Love Triangle” and “True Faith.” and “5 8 6” is a “Blue Monday” retread that sets a fast, sterile tempo.

It’s not all upbeat. “We All Stand” sounds like New Order is trying to say goodbye to Curtis — a common theme in their first album. It’s stark and minimalistic and sounds a lot like Joy Division.”Life goes on and on in this real-life fantasy / Forever to be still,” Sumner wails. The band gets even more personal in “Your Silent Face,” where the group addresses the death head-on: “No hearing or breathing, no movement, no lyrics — Just nothing.” It’s in this song that we hear the first hint of beauty in the group’s synthesizer; Gilbert’s almost choral exclamations are glorious.

Sumner’s voice can be strong at times, and while not overly confident, he can carry a tune better than Curtis did. As a result, New Order is a more listenable band than Joy Division, even if it lacks their predecessor’s despair and dystopian mood.

Not every band can survive the passing of their lead singer, but New Order survived and flourished. Power, Corruption & Lies is a perfect example of a group that had been given lemons and made a thirst-quenching elixir for the future.

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