After my last review of Primal Scream’s Chaosmosis with its handful of songs that reminded me of New Order, it’s only fitting that I take this opportunity to discuss New Order’s place in the Holy Trinity. You may recall I referred to the Holy Trinity in my review of the Cure’s The Head on the Door. These three albums, given as a gift when I was thirteen years old, went on to define my musical taste for the rest of my life.
New Order’s Brotherhood is the solid backbone of the Holy Trinity – not the album I’d choose to meet a specific mood, the one I’d choose just to make my ears happy. It wasn’t good for a big cathartic cry or an angry seethe. But it was terrific background music for doing homework or a boring road trip with the parents or hanging around with friends.
The album’s first track “Paradise” opens sounding like any old 80’s synthpop only until Peter Hook’s bass, played high but worn low, kicks in to let you know you’re listening to something out of the ordinary. A sequencer provides the actual bassline while Hook’s bass serves more as a lead guitar, right down to the solo at the end.
The frantic, skittering guitars of “Weirdo” make it my favorite song on the album. There’s plenty of room in my heart for keyboard-driven music, but I’ll always like guitars better. It’s the highest energy track on the album, even beating out dance floor staple “Bizarre Love Triangle.” Oh, “Bizarre Love Triangle,” how I loved dancing around my bedroom to you as an eighth grader, how you broke my heart when Top 40 radio started playing you and my classmates started asking me about New Order. Now you have the honor of being the best song I’ll hear all night at 90% of the weddings I attend.
“Way of Life” takes a close second place to “Weirdo” in my personal ranking of tracks on this album, again thanks to the guitars taking the lead and the keyboards taking a break. The near jangle of the guitars and the harmonized vocals of the chorus bring it more in line with New Order’s American college rock contemporaries of the 80s than pretty much anything else they’ve ever done.
If not for Hook’s high bass, a casual fan might fail to recognize “As It Is When It Was” for a New Order song. Completely devoid of keyboards or a drum machine, it’s a gentle near-ballad up until the ending crescendo. Likewise “All Day Long” comes in like a lamb and out like a lion, music box keyboards and lightly picked guitars making way for the big orchestral synths of the long outro.
“Every Little Counts” wraps the album up with another crescendo, starting with minimal instrumentation and building into a pretty impressive wall of sound, though it’s tough to take it too seriously when Bernard Sumner giggles his way through the whole song.
The other two bands in the Holy Trinity went on to disappoint me, losing their edge and releasing albums that either bored or appalled me. New Order never did that. At times my taste drifted away from what they were doing, but what they were doing stayed consistent. And sooner or later they always draw me back in with a new single that’s just as good as anything they put out in their 80s heyday.