Review Summary: A glorious rebirth without corruption.
There’s something about New Order; a certain opaqueness to their formula that makes them so distinct; so eternally fresh; so… themselves. It may well have existed on their indifferent debut, Movement
, in some stunted form, but it’s impossible to say either way as that album was swamped – swamped by its own murky, depressive slant, and by the tragedies of the not so distant past. But there was no questioning New Order circa 1983 as artists in control of their music and themselves, as sophomore effort Power, Corruption & Lies
is, in the truest sense, a glorious rebirth for these 3 Manchester lads and the drummer’s girlfriend.
Musically, its leaps and bounds ahead of what came before in terms of establishing New Order as a fresh band; starkly different to the gloomy post-punk of the past in best possible way. The guitars were stripped back to accompany the melodies rather than dominate them; the percussion had switched to a mostly electronic variety, and Hook’s bass work had evolved to seamlessly blend with the new sound, adding stringent human touches to the bouncy dance-rock hybrid. Synthesisers were used more than ever, too, with punchy sequencer rhythms and invigorating waves of synth sweeping the shores like never before.
The band had just grown as artists and as people who were recovering from a personal and professional tragedy. The melodies sound fresher and more exciting than they did a couple years ago, and the group seem as though they’re much more confident in themselves, perhaps most markedly Bernard Sumner. His lyrics and vocals had evolved tenfold, reaching a certain level of artiness and opaqueness he had not managed previously. His words, sung in a slightly struggling but charming tone, found themselves belonging to him - not sounding like the poor recreation of Curtis’ lyrics that they were on Movement
. The lyrics don’t give much away and retain a certain distance and cool detachment from their subject – the song titles are rarely referred to directly, if at all.
In many ways it’s this cool detachment from the norm; this opaqueness, which characterises New Order more than any run through of their technical style could hope to. New Order were a band that could churn out a mega pop single if they wished – the mighty ‘Blue Monday’, which spearheaded the album and only found itself included on the subsequent US release of Power, Corruption & Lies
proved this a million times over, with its still valid record of being the best-selling 12” single of all time. But what elevates them to a higher standard is their lack of care for such records, in a sense, as it’s their unique blend of alternative rock and moody dance; their poetic and oblique lyrics; their shunning of press interviews and commercialisation (original UK copies of the album didn’t even feature the names of the band or album, instead choosing to represent such details via a block of coded colours on the corner of the cover, which could be deciphered by a key on the sleeve’s reverse), and the reflective qualities of such sentiments on the artists who ushered them which colours in their identity most.
At the end of the day it’s their self-produced music that matters the most, and on Power, Corruption & Lies
New Order certainly didn’t fail. Songs like ‘586’, ‘Ultraviolence’ and ‘The Village’ remain grade-A slabs of alternative dance; the gorgeous opener and bitter closing number, which utilised familiar guitars more than the rest of the departing album, are superb, whilst the swampy ‘We All Stand’, and the achingly majestic ‘Your Silent Face’ showed that New Order could craft songs on two opposite ends of the mood spectrum, with almost equal adeptness. Power, Corruption & Lies
was a huge leap forward for New Order, and remains one of the most affecting and influential alternative albums of it’s era.