Review Summary: A seminal alternative dance record that shows a band overcoming their grief to create musical perfection
Following the disbandment of Joy Division (which was caused by the unfortunate suicide of lead vocalist Ian Curtis), fans of the group were unsure what would become of its remaining members. Would they just quit, never to be heard of again? They certainly would not, as New Order was formed shortly thereafter. A few Joy Division-esque singles that were written in the weeks prior to Curtis' suicide were released under New Order's name and for awhile, it seemed they would just be a rehash of the same post-punk sound they had helped popularize earlier. However, their sophomore album, 1983's "Power, Corruption & Lies" helped prove that they were really taking matters into their own hands. They churned out what is now referred to as their "first real album," and what a legacy it has had.
The album starts out with what is probably my favorite New Order song, 'Age of Consent.' A rather simple, jangly post-punk tune with a lovely little guitar riff and Bernard Sumner's characteristically strained vocals. Formerly the guitarist for Joy Division, Sumner took over lead vocal duties for New Order and became its primary lyricist. 'Age of Consent' is an excellent opener and sets the stage adequately for this album. It establishes the fact that New Order aren't just Joy Division 2, and that they are capable of carrying a damn good dance-rock tune. Another aspect of this band's music that made them such a unique act in the early 80's was the fact that, while they were using synthesizers like the majority of mainstream pop acts at the time, they experimented heavily with their instruments. They utilized only a smattering of synths on most of the tracks, and any time they may have become too overbearing on the song, Peter Hook's distinctive basslines swooped in as messily as ever. Perhaps their hesitance with synthesizers stemmed from their desire to make their music more "human." At the time, the band was very organic and wanted to maintain this humanly authenticity to their music, instead of letting it drift off into robotic and mechanical territories. (We know now that this was of much less concern to them later on in their career, but we'll refrain from mentioning that right this moment).
While songs like the alternative opener and the seminal 'Blue Monday' retained a very danceable rhythm, not all of the tracks on this album followed the same pattern. 'We All Stand' is five minutes of pure electronic melancholia. 'Your Silent Face' is ballad-esque, and showcases New Order's talent for subtle beauty amongst all their other synthesized dance tracks.
A delectable sampling of post-punk/alternative dance/synthpop by a band who made waves in all three of those scenes, "Power, Corruption & Lies" is the sign of a band really coming into its own after a long period of adversities. The suicide of Ian Curtis was not just the loss of the lead singer of a popular underground rock band...for Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris, it was the loss of a dear friend. New Order's actual first album "Movement" is a funereal, grim record that shows the band had still not come to grips with this major loss. But its follow-up successfully wipes the tears from New Order's eyes and sets the stage for one of the greatest dance-rock bands of the 1980's.