Review Summary: Tell me, how does it feel when your heart grows cold?
Note: This is a review of the US version of the album, which contains a substantially different tracklist than the UK version.
After an arduous summer of touring America and recording 1993's Republic
, New Order needed a break. With the band on hiatus and their future uncertain, London Records decided to release (the best of) New Order
in late '94 to cash in on their reputation while they were still near the forefront of public consciousness. But in spite of its commercial impetus, this remains a fine collection of music that represents the apotheosis of their shift away from their Joy Division beginnings and towards the world of mainstream pop.
Leading off with the rapid-fire jangly guitar chords and bouncy bassline of "Let's Go (Nothing for Me)", the album treats us to a rare upbeat and uplifting song from the band. It doesn't raise your expectations for the rest of the album (especially if you already know the songs) but it is a pleasant surprise, especially with the next three tracks' being pulled from the band's first three albums. "Dreams Never End" still sounds like Joy Division post-punk, and in context of the tracklist makes much more sense as Track Two than, say, Track Eleven. "Age of Consent" and "Love Vigilantes" better represent their contemporary synthpop sound and illustrate the start of a transformation, which is fully realized in the brand new remixes of "True Faith", "Bizarre Love Triangle", and "1963" that update the classic hits with smoother production, more guitar, and less of an electronic edge (it's interesting to note that twenty years later bands are striving for the same authentic house sound that New Order was giving up). These are modern-day pop songs to be sure, which makes the acid house "Fine Time" sound jarring and primitive in comparison. Fortunately this is the only major misstep on an album that represents over a decade of music.
By the end of the album the band's minor-key mid-tempo synthpop starts to wear on you, with "Regret" coming off a tad sleepy after an energetic new remix of "Round and Round", and "World (The Price of Love)"—an okay song in its own right—doing nothing to lift you up. "Ruined in a Day" is downright soporific in its mellodrama, but that's a given considering its subject matter. The magnum opus that is "Blue Monday" almost comes too late, but when it does it comes too fast; while it's a reinvigorating point in the album, this 1988 remix is sped up from the original and doesn't give you time to fully enjoy it. The football anthem "World in Motion" closes things up, and does a decent job in that respect.
It's easy to imagine these tracks' being consciously laid out to achieve the effect that they do, when in fact they're basically just grouped by original album. Perhaps this near-chronological approach echoes the band's mentality over their career, with its auspicious origins, rapid rise from underground to mainstream, plateau in the late eighties, and its gradual decline. Perhaps it showcases the dreary mood and frustration the band lived with as working class low-lifes, their prolonged grief after the death of friend and band-mate Ian Curtis, the urban decay of their hometown Manchester, and the financial and emotional toll imposed by Factory Records and the Hacienda. Perhaps, as the Buddha says, life is suffering, and their music reflects their lives. Perhaps I'm just getting sentimental.