Review Summary: New Order kick off their career with an angry brash effort, honouring Ian Curtis in the process.
The story of Manchester music is one that is entwined with that of New Order, a band whose entire existence in 1981 hinged on the release of a successful debut studio album. The band had recently been forced into existence due to the sad suicide of former Joy Division singer, Ian Curtis, and as such, they had a lot to prove on their first studio album.
Did they do it? Well, Movement is definitely an album that is without a doubt a transitional one. A combination of the well known Joy Division post punk sound, with the emerging influence of Donna Summer and the New York disco sound. A combination that at first baffled and annoyed fans of Joy Division, but a sound that a lot of them grew to love.
Firstly, it must be stated that the courage and integrity that Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris had to undertake a new musical project, so shortly after the suicide of their friend and band mate, Ian Curtis, is a test and proof of character in itself, a show of defiance in the face of incredibly adversity. Yet bizarrely, some people have anger towards the New Order sound, based solely on the fact that they weren’t Joy Division. And why the hell should they be? The main priority of New Order would be to press on, honouring Ian Curtis’ memory by writing music that their band would probably have done and a sound they would have eventually evolved into anyway.
Context and grievances aside, Movement is a fascinating debut album. One that is so embarrassingly well packaged, and aesthetically pleasing that it puts almost every other release to shame, apart from that of course, by New Order themselves. Musically it is, as mentioned, a heady blend of post punk and electronica, a precursor to a style of music that would be retroactively labeled new wave. The album opens positively enough, with the band blasting into Dreams Never End, a song which manages to uplift the gloomy vocals just enough so as to give the band themselves hope.
All hope is cut short though, as Truth, Senses, and Chosen Time rumble over the speakers, bringing with them a wash of uncertainty, gloom, and fog, all of which is underpinned by the typically atmospheric production from studio ace, Martin Hannett. Standouts are Chosen Time and Denial, which bubble and explode with an exciting new energy, one that is reminiscent of Unknown Pleasures.
Throughout the album there seems to be an unavoidable stench of gloom, depression and death, factors which usually make for unlistenable music, but in this case the sound is a cathartic one, and a truly humane and forgivable one. The band’s history is of joint importance to their sound, and if truth be told, it is intrinsic to enjoying, empathising, and understanding it.
The ghost of Ian Curtis hangs heavy throughout, his vocals appearing in bursts from new vocalist, Sumner. Tracks I.C.B., and The Him especially conjure up his irrepressible scowl and baritone boom, and although this may in theory sound cheap, it is not deliberate, or even offensive, rather just a young singer attempting to find his own style and trying one that worked for a good friend.
This album is much more than just a celebration or a closure of events past though. It is a stark message, a reminder, to Joy Division fans. They won’t be forsaken, there is a new band on the block, and this new band are going to go on to release some of the most successful, popular and enduring music of all time. This is where it all starts.