New Order Singles Ranked, 21-30

Originally Published on Facebook Notes (May 5, 2017)

At least one selection here is potentially controversial, but I think the rest are songs that are most or less accurately rated. As I mentioned in the last entry, I’m not really satisfied with portions of this list but that mainly applies to the top and bottom of it – the middle is pretty accurate I think.

There are fewer garbage lyrics here but I’ll keep track of the problematic ones as they inevitably crop up.

30. Someone Like You

From 2001’s Get Ready, Third Single

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
It had to come
The ship has landed
It’s time to run
The crew are stranded

New Order procured the services of hot-shot producer Steve Osborne for Get Ready and you can hear him all over the album. The first 60 seconds or so of this song are sort of typical of his style at the time – or at least what I’ve heard of his style. Sort of echo-y electronic sounds, crisp beats and a very “clean” sound. In 2001, it was very appealing to my ear (and still is). New Order has always made excellent use of backing vocals (sometimes providing the emotion that Sumner’s cool style doesn’t allow). The chorus here runs pretty warm because of those backing vocals. While this is not the most memorable song on Get Ready, there are far worse ways to spend five minutes of your life (see #39-41).

29. Fine Time

From 1989’s Technique, First Single (released in 1988)

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
The lyrics don’t matter one jot on this song

“Fine Time,” at the time of its release, made me go “what on Earth has become of New Order?” This is because I live in America. Allow me to explain. In their native UK, New Order were regulars on pop radio. In the United States, they were a college radio and dance club staple – what we’d call alternative these days. Thus, New Order was fairly mainstream in their home country but viewed as enigmatic outsides in the USA. I’m sure their exploration of the Ibiza dance sound on Technique just sounded like their latest foray into dance pop in the UK. To me, it sounded like this alternative act had suddenly sold out to mainstream dance music. Jokes on me! They’d sold out from the start! “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was a top twenty hit! “Blue Monday” was top ten! Just not in the USA. Anyhow, as with ‘Touched By The Hand Of God,” my instinctual dislike for this song in 1988 has been replaced with genuine admiration for it – its a pretty amazing dance record. If the lyrics are forgettable (because some of them are spoken at a near subliminal volume), well, good. Forgettable lyrics are sort of a best case scenario sometimes for New Order. I’d be happy to listen to this song on repeat while working out forever. On the other hand, its hard for the part of my brain that is still 20 years old to allow me to rank this higher than 29.

28. Murder

Stand-alone single, released in 1984 in Belgium only

Garbage Lyrics Highlight:
This song is pretty much an instrumental with some samples from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Caligula. Any quote from Caligula is ipso facto garbage, but New Order uses those quotes especially well, so let’s give them props for that.

New Order’s first eight singles were not included on an album until their greatest hits collection Substance 1987 was released. I think my brother gave me a CD copy of that for my birthday that year and its remained one of my all-time favorite compilations. Anyhow, I’ve ranked this the lowest of the 8 original New Order singles. Its a really good instrumental that shows off the whole band’s skill (both as musicians and as creators of interesting music). New Order’s greatest instrumental composition is, of course, “Elegia.” That wasn’t released as a single, but you should pop in your headphones and listen to it with the lights out. Incense optional. Anyhow, “Murder” should be considered a classic even if it the least of their classic singles.

27. State of the Nation

Stand-alone single, released in 1986

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
You can walk, or you can run
You don’t have to be someone
I went on a summer cruise
Upon an ocean born to lose

Best to just not pay attention to the lyric on this one. Its ostensibly a protest song with a vague anti-war or maybe an anti-deprivation sentiment. I’m just going to assume it was anti-Thatcher because hating on Thatcher created some of the finest music of the 1980’s (note to all musicians recording today – hating a world leader is supposed to lead to great music). It was unusual for New Order songs at the time to have titles that appeared in the chorus – the unrelated titles always made the songs seem a little more mysterious. There’s a great disorienting moment right at the start of “State of the Nation” right as the drum kicks in – it sounds briefly like the keyboard bit and the drum bit are slightly off. This resolves when the guitar part starts, but it is a great attention grabbing device. While this isn’t quite as groundbreaking and thrilling in sound or approach as some of their other 80’s singles, its a compelling piece of music. And you can dance to it. The B-Side is even better.

26. Singularity

From 2015’s Music Complete, Promotional Single Only

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
I care so much for you
I’d crawl a thousand miles
Through deserts full of sand
My love in every land

That’s not so bad a lyric, but that last line just feels like to was tacked on so there’d be a rhyme. This particular track was produced by Tom Rowlands of The Chemical Brothers and it bears the hallmarks of some of their best electronic work. Indeed, the whole Music Complete album aspires to a contemporary cool club music feel and sometimes succeeds (sometimes it sounds like mid-tempo adult contemporary pop songs). “Singularity” has a beat designed to get you excited and if it sounds like it could be any one of a hundred different bands as opposed to specifically New Order, it is still a pretty solid dance track.

25. Spooky

From 1993’s Republic, Fourth Single

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
Maybe we could find a time
Eliminate what’s on your mind
We’d do everything we could
Our presence in the neighborhood

I’m not sure that even Bernard Sumner knows what that means. Between New Order’s 1989 album, Technique, and this album, they had their huge hit #1 smash with “World in Motion.” That is, perhaps, why they stopped sounding so groundbreaking and sounded, on Republic, more like a standard dance-pop band. Factory Records had closed and they were working with Stephen Hague – a great producer, but a producer whose work all sounded like basically pleasant, standard (at the time) dance pop. Again, its really good dance pop, but the band lost some of the freshness and excitement of their 80’s work. Another factor, perhaps, was that the band was on the edge of breaking up (at least in part because they’d all recorded with other bands – Electronic, Revenge and The Other Two – between 1989 and 1993). They did, in fact, dissolve for eight years after this album – in fact, after this single.

24. Hellbent

From 2013’s Lost Sirens, Promotional Single Only

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
Too many girlfriends, but not enough love
Too many late nights, and not enough sleep
Strung out and wasted, no good and shameful
The life we tasted, there on the table

Lost Sirens was a collection of songs from the Waiting for the Siren’s Call sessions. Several of the reviews at the time suggested it was superior to its parents album, but I think people just liked the harder guitars. For example, this track kicks off with a great little Bernard Sumner guitar but and he continues to punctuate the song with some hard rock here and there. Really, its a pretty exciting track and hearkens back in a positive way to some of the excitement they generated with their rock/dance work in their early days.

23. Krafty

From 2005’s Waiting for the Siren’s Call, First Single

Garbage Lyrics Highlight:
But out there the world is a beautiful place
With mountains, lakes and the human race

Really, I think my issues with New Order’s lyrics is that they often feel like they’re selecting words just because they rhyme and less because they complete a thought or an image. I spend a great deal of time improvising lyrics in Oil in the Alley and beat myself up whenever I use a rhyme just as a filler word. In a song, you have all of about 100 words (if you’re lucky) to make your point and hoping that words rhyme is like the bare minimum of what you want to do. Ideally – at least in my opinion – the lyric has a reason for existing that is a little deeper than maintaining rhyme and meter. New Order is hardly uniquely guilty in producing nonsense lyrics, but they’re so good in so many other ways that I want their words to be of a similarly high quality. Not that I’m the arbitrator of all things lyric or that I’m necessarily even capable of doing better. Regarding “Krafty,” if you’re willing to overlook the fact that the first chorus sounds like a beer ad (I am), its a really well crafted pop/dance song with some excellent backing vocals, typically excellent bass work and a hook that will latch into your brain and not let go until “Smooth” by Sanata inevitably wends its way back into your consciousness and bullies it out.

22. Ruined in a Day

From 1993’s Republic, Second Single

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
Let’s agree to not listen to the lyrics for this one. Don’t ruin it. Shhh. Shhh.

I want Portishead to perform this song so badly. This doesn’t especially sound like a New Order song (which is an unfair standard and suggests that there is a typical New Order sound – by 1993, there wasn’t) but its a great dramatic, slinky song. I was kind of over Republic from almost the moment I heard it and never really gave it a proper chance so I missed this song at the time.

21. Let’s Go (Nothing for Me)

Originally from the Soundtrack to the 1987 film Salvation!, released as a promotional single in 1994 from The Best of New Order

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
There’s no today and there’s no tomorrow
Where you find sadness I find sorrow

Because sadness and sorrow are two different things? Wha? New Order recorded a number of songs – by design or because they weren’t being used elsewhere – for the movie Salvation! (“Touched By The Hand Of God” for one) that were really quite awesome. This number in particular has all the hallmarks of a classic New Order track – a cool acoustic guitar intro, some great bass work, a better-than-average vocal, and some of the classic keyboard work that defined much of their best 80’s work. It was sort of hidden away on that lousy movie’s soundtrack so it was a delight to me that it was resurrected (a song from Salvation! was resurrected, hur hur hur) on their 1994 greatest hits package. If you’ve not heard it and you’re a fan of the band, it really is a lost treat.

Coming Next: Better lyrics, but just sort of.

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