New Order’s existence was born out of chaos and flame: the death of a friend and icon Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division. There had always been plans for what the next stage was between Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner, and Stephen Morris. A New Order.
Comparing the music of Joy Division to New Order is ultimately like comparing apples and oranges. Joy Division was post-punk rock with gothic roots and a nihilistic aesthetic, shaped perfectly in sound by the deep, rich voice of singer and songwriter Ian Curtis. New Order, on the other hand, is pretty hard to nail down into one specific genre, but I’d generally say they are new wave synthpop electronica.
They’d put out several releases but there’s one that really marked the style the band would use most, and shape what is probably my favourite album of theirs. Republic was released in 1993 and came out after the collapse of their previous label, the infamous Factory Records. It kept the New Order DNA of the vague lyrics, song titles which are never said during songs,
They put out many albums, but their last before a five year hiatus was 1993’s Republic, which was the last to follow the classic New Order DNA of synthpop electronica with vague lyrics, and song titles which are never said during songs.
Their next album came in 2001, and was significantly more inspired by guitar and late 90s / early 00s alternative rock music. Get Ready marked a significant departure from their New Order style, but closer perhaps to Joy Division. 21 years after Joy Division’s last release they returned to a rock and guitar sound. Get Ready even has tracks in which the song title is actually said during the song – in fact only three tracks don’t (Slow Jam, Close Range and Run Wild) off the entire album.
The first two tracks on Get Ready are probably my two favourite opening tracks from any album. Crystal and 60 Miles an Hour. I think they’re brilliant and I think they’re a combination in the narrative they tell, at least thematically very similar. Crystal is about the end of a relationship, and 60 Miles (which I think is from the perspective of the other person in the relationship) is about them potentially getting back together again.
The relationship however, isn’t just a sort of normal, run of the mill one. It’s one that’s constantly on and off again, possibly between two people who were initially friends.
We’re like crystal, we break easy
I’m a poor man, if you leave me
I’m applauded, then forgotten
It was summer, now it’s autumn
The couple is constantly on and off, so often unsure of who they are to each other, and what they want to be. Neither is quite comfortable and this isn’t the first or last time they’ll fall apart, after all, they “break easy”.
60 Miles then is about the other end of this cycle they constantly find themselves on. I think a lot of people have this sort of a friend/person in their life the song’s about. You don’t really keep in contact all the time, but they’re there when you make the effort. Never a case of them reaching out to you.
When I saw you in my rear view
You could have stopped me in my tracks
I’ll be there for you when you want me to
I’ll stand by your side like I always do
In the dead of night it’ll be alright
‘Cause I’ll be there for you when you want me to
So when they finally are the ones who make the effort to reach out – you know something is up. In the relationship context of an on-again-off-again, this feels like it fits. There’ll always be that mutual respect and feeling, even when you’ve broken off. That’s the nature of break-ups. As New Order would know – they’ve had so many cases of band members leaving, rejoining, hiatus or more tragically back as Joy Division – dying.
Following the release of Get Ready, Gillian Gilbert who was the keyboardist and guitarist of New Order left the band to look after her and Stephen Morris’ children after their marriage in 1994. She was replaced by Phil Cunningham, though Gilbert returned to New Order in 2010 as is currently part of the line-up touring Australia.
Get Ready as an album to me reads as a look at relationships and friendships and the complex ones – the ones that don’t really fit in easy columns. For who New Order are and why they are, I think that’s pretty fitting.
It’ll remain an important album to me and one of my all-time favourites – definitely my favourite from New Order.
I’ll be seeing them this coming week live in concert and I am thrilled, hearing tracks that mean so much to me like Crystal and 60 Miles, as well as classic ones like Blue Monday, Age of Consent, and World in Motion will be brilliant.