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Power, Corruption & Lies – New Order (1983)

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Power, Corruption & Lies album cover

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 it’s helped along by the single “Blue Monday,” considered by many to be the greatest 12-inch single ever. (It wasn’t included on the original vinyl release but was on the cassette version and subsequent CDs.) It’s 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.

Power, Corruption & Lies begins with the addictive “Age of Consent,” which sounds like a lost Joy Division track on Prozac. 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 needs to tell you just what you want me to.”

“We All Stand” sounds like New Order is trying to say goodbye to Curtis — a common theme in their first album. “Life goes on and on in this real life fantasy / Forever to be still,” Sumner wails. It 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.

Several songs, including “The Village” and “5 8 6,” continue the electronic direction established by “Blue Monday,” which paved the way for hit singles such as “Bizarre Love Triangle” and “True Faith,” while setting the foundation for future musical genres such as EDM and modern pop. 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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