New Order Singles Ranked, 11-20

Originally Published in Facebook Notes (May 6, 2017)

Keeping in mind that this is entirely a ranking of how much I like each of these songs, I still suspect that as many of four of the songs here in the top 20 instead of the top 10 will cause some consternation among New Order superfans. The top 20 are all fantastic songs – its just New Order has a lot of fantastic songs.

With that said…

20. Everything’s Gone Green

1981 Stand-Alone Single (Their Third Overall)

Garbage Lyric Highlight:

There’s an argument that New Order really changed from Joy Division to New Order somewhere in the middle of recording the album Power, Corruption and Lies. You can hear some hints of their growing interest in electronic music as early as “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and there’s certainly some powerful synthesizer (sequencer?) work happening throughout “Everything’s Gone Green.” However – at least in part to the continued involvement of producer Martin Hannett – there’s something about their first three singles (and their Movement album from the same period) that still sounds like Joy Division. And why not? Hook, Sumner and Morris were the same musicians! Sumner even seems to be doing his best to reach for a bit of Ian Curtis anguish in his vocal delivery here. Even the lyric is better than average, I’ve ranked it a bit lower than 6 of their other classic 8 singles because its just never quite been an absolute favorite of mine. Great song, though.

19. People on the High Line

From 2015’s Music Complete, Fourth Single

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
If you love me in the night
I will come and make it right

The kicker is he later clarifies “come to you,” suggesting he made it sound dirty more to preserve the rhythm than out of any desire to be cheeky. I could be wrong. Every time I listened to this song on my playlist, I thought “am I ranking this too high?” and then the female singers kick in with “I’ll keep trying” and I go “NOT HIGH ENOUGH.” Something about the way that whole chorus is delivered just hits that aural sweet spot for me. But, really, I love the semi-funk of the start of the song too – the handclap beats and Sumner’s very convincing attempt at funk guitar. On Music Complete, New Order seems to be pretty heavily influenced by The Scissors Sisters (see below) who gloriously embraced disco in the best possible way. Every song from this point on is a song I typically have to listen to at least twice whenever it shuffles into my headphones.

18. Procession

1981 Stand-Alone Single, Their Second Overall

Garbage Lyric Highlight:

New Order eventually split with producer Martin Hannett – according to band legend – over a dispute over the drums on “Everything’s Gone Green.” Sumner and Hook wanted the drums to be more prominent in the mix, Hannett walked out. If you listen to this song and compare it with Joy Division’s work, you’ll hear that the drums are already much further forward than on the earlier tunes. Well, its Stephen Morris’ composition, so why shouldn’t his drums be pushed forward? You can hear some rare Gillian Gilbert backing vocals on this track. After Curtis died, the band experimented with both Gilbert and Hook as possible lead vocalists before deciding Sumner should do the job. Hook and Sumner contributed some classic Joy Division/New Order sounding bass and guitar work on this one – there’s a particular fast descending riff that is especially appealing. Peter Hook is the only hook associated with this song, though. There’s nothing that really grabs you on the first few listens but repeated plays over thirty years have made this one a tune I look forward to.

17. Shellshock

From the Soundtrack to the 1986 Movie Pretty In Pink

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
When we walk through open doorways
Counting time in one or more ways
We can’t find our peace of mind
And life becomes a life of crime

I rather admire rhyming “mind” and “crime,” to tell the truth, but “doorways” and “more ways?” Again, what is he trying to communicate here? These four lines sounded profound to me in 1986 when I was young and a moron, but not that I’m old and a curmudgeon they strike me as gibberish. Stop, stop, I’ve ranked this song at 17. Let’s leave the (rather annoying) lyrics. I kind of hated this song in 1986. To me, it was the weak point on the excellent-for-its-time Pretty in Pink soundtrack (and that means I liked it less than the cover of Nik Kershaw’s “Wouldn’t It Be Good” by Danny Hutton Hitters). It sounded like a total throw-away tune. But then 30 years passed and now… Well, I have learned first that I absolutely love the little scurrying drum bit that answers the phat synth chords in the opening of the song, I think the chorus (as meaningless as it is) is great fun to sing and the Gilbert/Morris rhythm work is classic 80’s period New Order. Its never going to be one of my top 10 favorite songs by the band, but I really like it when it pops up on my iPod.

16. Jetstream

From 2005’s Waiting For The Siren’s Call, Second Single

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
This song is no worse than any other song on the dance charts

Ana Matronic of The Scissors Sisters is the guest vocalist on this songs and I love her so much. Indeed, I love The Scissors Sisters so much. That’s also a pretty excellent performance video there. Here’s another video of the song. New Order can write a fine pop song when they want to and, truly, this is a fine pop song. The shared vocal is filled with sing-a-long hooks (J-E-T, j-e-t), the rhythm is just right and there’s a great Peter Hook bass line that slithers through the whole piece. This is the last song from Waiting For The Siren’s Call that I’ll be addressing here so let me take a moment to lament that Hook and the rest of the band fell out. Hook once (jokingly?) suggested that New Order without Peter Hook is like Queen without Freddie Mercury. I mean, no. However, Peter Hook’s bass is perhaps the signature sound that distinguishes New Order from any other dance-rock band. They made some good songs on Music Complete (see below) but they don’t quite sound as much like New Order without him.

15. Tutti Frutti

From 2015’s Music Complete, Second Single

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
Generations lost in space
Trying to find the human race
We’re living in a state of grace
Where every scholar means a dollar

LOL wut? OK, I love this song so much and would happily have placed it in the top 10 if not for that one particular verse. It makes me bonkers. Fortunately, it last 10 seconds and then we move on. This is, in my opinion (everything here is in my opinion) New Order’s best song from Music Complete. It features vocals from Elly Jackson of La Roux and she’s a huge factor in how I feel about this song – her chorus work is just killer. The song embraces Eurodisco and feels like a classic New Order song – it would not sound out of place on Technique (though the production is certainly more 21st century than on that album). Sumner’s vocal is spot on. Gillian Gilbert returned on Music Complete and this song demonstrates why she was missed on Get Ready and Waiting for the Siren’s Call – even more than Peter Hook, her electronic contribution defined New Order in my mind in the 80’s. “Tutti Frutti” is a worthy addition to the New Order classic catalog and, while I know Peter Hook would disagree vehemently, Music Complete is a very good New Order album in general.

14. 60 Miles An Hour

From 2001’s Get Ready, Second Single

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
Why don’t you run over here and rescue me?
You can drive down in your car
Why don’t we both take a ride and turn that key
We’ll drive at 60 miles an hour

I’ve been trying to put my finger on what makes me crazy about some of their lyrics. In this case, the “rescue me” and “turn that key” thing is grating to me. When you’re improvising lyrics, you sometimes have to settle for lousy rhymes (and sometimes your brain blanks on you and you have to settle for lousy blank verse). One thing that happens when you improvise lyrics is that you sometimes make the mistake of committing to the wrong rhyme word. Like in your head you think “I want to end with the phrase ‘rescue me’” but then you sing that phrase first, or you sing something that rhymes with “rescue” instead of “me.” When that happens, you often need to force a rhyme (if preserving the rhyme scheme is important to you). So, if I know I’m singing a song about driving and the hope that my lover and I can use a car to escape out dull lives, I can see how I’d create an clunky lyrics like “rescue me”/”turn the key” business. However, if I have time to sit down and actually write out lyrics, maybe I can tease out something a little more sophisticated. To whit, I think some of New Order’s lyrics are lazy – even afterthoughts – in their creation of songs.


“60 Miles An Hour” is another New Order song that leans very heavily on Peter Hook’s bass work. In fact, the three elements that make it sound like a New Order album are Hook’s bass, Sumner’s guitar and Sumner’s vocal. Morris is a tinkerer and his drums rarely sound the same from album to album (even song to song) and Gilbert’s absence on keyboards (and other electronics) is pretty obvious. However, this song is in general a great high energy rock song with a great chorus. It really feels like a triumphant return for New Order (which Get Ready generally was, albeit a return without Gillian Gilbert).

13. Ceremony

1981 Stand-Alone Single, Their First Overall

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
Don’t be absurd – this is an Ian Curtis lyric

“Ceremony” was the last song recorded by Joy Division and the first song (re) recorded by New Order. The vocal on the Joy Division recording isn’t recorded especially well. New Order rerecorded at least two versions of the song before releasing it as their first single. The New Order version has somewhat clearer, crisper production. Bernard Sumner does his best Ian Curtis impression here (he quickly became his own singer). Ian Curtis wrote his life – even though the people close to him often didn’t realize this at the time. That’s one of the challenges of judging whether somebody in music (or any art) is experiencing suicidal ideation – sometimes, it just seems like they’re working their issues out artistically. Anyhow, “Ceremony” is a Joy Division song performed by New Order and its excellent.

12. Regret

From 1993’s Republic, First Single

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
I wouldn’t even trust you
I’ve not that much to give
We’re dealing in the limits,
And we don’t know who with

Mangling the grammar to make the rhyme is one of my improv lyric techniques. Peter Hook calls this the last good New Order song. It was their biggest hit here in the US. Its all right. I’ve been struggling where to rank it. Initially, I ranked it higher, then I dropped it into the bottom five, then I waffled on it for about a month. Just outside the top 10 seems a good place for it. I agree that its a great pop song, but its also seems so lightweight compared to the work that came before (except for “World in Motion” which – if you’ll allow me to express myself – is so lightweight it makes your voice squeaky if you breath it in). I like (and hate) the little guitar lick before the choruses. I don’t know, on any given day I can love this song or hate it. I genuinely have no idea where it should actually be on this chart. Set relationship to “Its Complicated.”

11. Sub-culture

From 1985’s Low-Life, Second Single

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
I can’t pick just one, but its best not to listen to the lyrics on this one anyways

Low-Life is a great album and also the first New Order album that included singles. The single of “Subculture” (or “Sub-Culture” or maybe “Sub Culture”) was remixed by John Robie to include female backing vocals and a more dance club friendly sound. Apparently, many people didn’t care for that. Personally, I like both the stripped down album version and the clubbed up single version. The lyrics are just this side of dreadful, but I’m no convinced we’re supposed to be listening to them as anything more than sounds. In fact, maybe that’s the secret to Sumner’s words – they’re pleasant noises that accompany and contribute to outstanding music. Anyhow, Low-Life was the first New Order album I owned (on vinyl!). I bought it in New York City while on a trip there at the end of my senior year in high school. If there’s a more 1985 New York thing to do than buy a New Order club-oriented record, I don’t know what it is.

Coming Soon: the other four classic original New Order singles, none of which are my choice for #1.

New Order Singles RankedJoy Division 1-631-4121-3011-201-10