New Order Singles Ranked, 31-41

Originally Published On Facebook Notes (May 2, 2017)

After Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis died, remaining members Peter Hook (bass), Stephen Morris (drums, etc) and Bernard Sumner (guitar, keyboards and vocals in New Order) recruited keyboardist/guitarist Gillian Gibert and decided to press on under the name New Order. They started off sounding like Joy Division with a different vocalist but ultimately became one of the world’s premiere dance-rock acts.

Ranking their singles has proven to be a frustrating experience. I’m only about 65% satisfied with this list and my level of satisfaction is directly linked to Bernard Sumner. His musicianship is unimpeachable and his vocals are consistent and pleasant if unremarkable. The issue is his lyric writing. At its best, its all right but at its worst it wrecks the whole song for me. In some cases, I can ignore the words and enjoy the song anyways. At other times, well…

And because of this, my opinion of certain songs is constantly shifting. Like if I listened to the song I’ve ranked last here and didn’t pay attention to the words, I could have ranked it quite a big higher. But then I listen to the words and I’m like “no, throw it in a sack and drown it.” I’ll make a point to chronicle particularly painful lyrical moments as we go through this.

I also struggled a bit with aural nostalgia while ranking these songs. Specifically, its challenging for me to separate how I currently feel about some of their classics form how I once felt about them. Do I really like “Confusion” as much as I think I do (yes)? Do I really still dislike “Shellshock” so much (no)? After a couple weeks of listening to nothing but New Order, I think this is the best I’m going to do on an order. As always, your mileage may vary.

I’ve left off re-releases of earlier singles. I’ve also included both promotional singles and singles for purchase. I used Wikipedia and Discogs as my two main sources for determining what counts as singles.

And now…

41. Guilt Is a Useless Emotion

From 2005’s Waiting for the Siren’s Call, Fourth Single (Promotional Single Only)

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
Real love can’t be bought
It is wild and it can’t be caught
Real love can’t be sold
It’s another color than gold

Despite a very catchy chorus, the lyrics of “Guilt is a Useless Emotion” absolutely sink this song for me. Usually, Sumner’s lyrics only include one or two stinkers, but this one offers a painful choice of words every 10-15 seconds. Replace all of the words with “la la la” and this song immediately shoots up in my estimation. I can give the song a pass for the first verse and chorus (though I cringe) but then he gets to the “you sure know a lot for a girl” line and I’m like “No, I’m done.”

40. World (The Price of Love)

From 1993’s Republic, Third Single

Garbage Lyrics Highlight:
So I’m stepping out of time
because breaking is a crime
And it may all be too late
but I’ve no passion for this hate

The whole chorus is pretty lousy, too. It was recently playing while I was driving Sharon somewhere and her response to the chorus was something like “that is the lamest thing you’ve ever played.” (Note: she hasn’t heard “Guilt is a Useless Emotion” to my knowledge) She still sings it occasionally in the car in a mocking tone. “Hey, remember ‘That the priiiice of loooove.’” There are exactly three New Order songs that I’m totally happy to skip over the moment I recognize what I’m listening to. I’m no wordsmith and I’m not saying I would do better, but I improvise almost all the lyrics I sing and I’d be embarrassed if I improvised this one. I’m pretty hard to humiliate, so, I mean…

39. World in Motion

Stand-Alone Single, 1990

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
Express yourself
You can’t be wrong
When somethings good
Its never wrong

In Bernard Sumner’s defense, the lyrics to this song were partially written by comedian Keith Allen who, at one point, rhymes “wrong” with “wrong.” This song was released in 1990 to support England’s FIFA World Cup Run. It is New Order’s biggest hit. Picking on it is like picking on “Are You Ready For Some Football?” or “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” The relative quality of the song isn’t the point – the point is getting excited to watch an athletic event. Like many sports league theme songs (or national anthems, or school songs, or whatever), this song just sucks. But, again, that’s beside the point. I imagine if I lived in England and was a football fan, I’d think this song was awesome. I don’t and I don’t, so its just another song to me and a bad one at that. It was going to be the very bottom of my list but it turns out I dislike the lyrics of those other two songs even more. The best part of this song is something resembling a rap by football player John Barnes. If you can isolate that part, you have a reasonably mediocre song.

38. Run Wild

From 2001’s Get Ready, Fourth Single (?) (Promotional Single Only)

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
I’m gonna live ’til I die
I’m gonna live to get high

I enjoy every song from this point on to varying degrees. The lyrics I just quoted are the closing couplet of the song so I don’t really want to hit “skip” on this one until its actually over and its too late to skip it. It dawns on me that I might be being a bit unfair to Bernard Sumner. Like, perhaps, he’s not the only lyricist for New Order. Furthermore, any lyricist is going to look bad when compared to Ian Curtis. Instead of blaming Sumner, I’ll hold the whole band responsible since, presumably, one of them could have stood up and said “Bernard, that last couplet is just crap.” Assuming he wrote it. Anyhow, as for the song itself, its a pretty acoustic number with a surprisingly religious set of lyrics – basically, its a “I’ll love you until you die” (represented here by the “when Jesus comes to take your hand” line) theme. There’s an interesting bridge that starts with a harmonic but then shifts into Massive Attack []
mode. Get Ready was New Order’s first album after reuniting (well, without Gillian Gilbert) and was an especially strong effort. They make especially good use of back-up singers on this album in general and this song in specific. This surely isn’t a bad song, its just not especially a stand-out in their catalog.

37. Restless

From 2015’s Music Complete, First Single

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
I want a nice car
A girlfriend
Who’s as pretty as a star
I want respect
As much, as much as I can get

This is a pretty great song that is rendered only somewhat grating by the lyrics. Maybe I’m being overly harsh on New Order for these lyrics. Maybe. But I don’t think so. Music Complete was the first post-Peter Hook album by New Order (though Gillian Gilbert returned). There’s a whole soap opera around Hook’s 21st century involvement with the band, particularly in regards to his public relationship with Sumner. The short version seems to be he announced the band was splitting up in public, which came as a surprise to the rest of the band who assumed it meant he was quitting. They did call it quits for a few years, but then reunited with Gilbert (but not with Hook). Hook was publicly irritated, at least in part, because they got back together under the New Order name – they apparently had some sort of agreement that if any one of them left, they’d continue under a new name. Of course, when Gilbert wasn’t part of the band in the first part of the 21st century, they were still New Order, so… Music Complete does miss Hook’s bass playing, but its still a very strong later-day New Order (or is it?) album. “Restless” captures the basic vibe of the album and I was very excited about it when it first came out. I still like it, I just need to avoid listening to some of the words.

36. Here to Stay

From the 2002 movie 24 Hour Party People

Garbage Lyric Highlight:

“Here to Stay” occupies a weird place in my mental space. I quite enjoy when I hear it. Indeed, it makes me want to dance and I want to sing along with the chorus. Five minutes later, I can’t remember it. The film 24 Hour Party People is about Factory records, New Order’s record label in the 80’s and 90’s, and the Manchester music scene. Its completely appropriate that they contributed this song for the closing credits. Its a classic sounding New Order song that also sounds very current for 2002.

35. 1963 (Arthur Baker remix)

From 1995’s compilation The Best of New Order, Second Single

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
Oh jeez, the whole lyric in toto

1963 is such a classic New Order song, particularly Peter Hook’s bass work. Seriously, musically, the whole piece is fantastic. But hoooooly cats, the lyric. OK, so, everyone knows John F. Kennedy was killed by an assassin in 1963. What this song presupposes is what if Lee Harvey Oswald had been hired to kill Jackie Kennedy so JFK could marry Marilyn Monroe. Its meant to be “tongue in cheek” and it borrows heavily from the 60’s trope of songs from the point of view of abused women singing about how their abuser really isn’t that bad. So basically, I’d like to use a few specific colorful words to express my feelings about this song but will refrain because this is a public forum and I only swear in private. Wow, though, strip away the lyrics and this song is classic. It was originally the B-Side of 1987’s “True Faith” but was so well liked that when they put out their ‘95 greatest hits package it was remixed and released as a rather successful single. Seriously, though, that lyric.

34. Touched by the Hand of God

From the soundtrack of the 1987 film Salvation!, First Single

Garbage Lyric Highlight
This… this is a good lyric…

I have complicated feelings about this song. I remember really not liking it back in 1987 (I think I was annoyed by how affected Bernard Sumner sounded in the chorus, especially the first time he sings the word “touched”). Furthermore, I remember really trying to make myself like it and not succeeding. I was certain I would be ranking it last on my whole list. But then I spent some time listening to it this month and… its… really quite good. I can’t quite bring myself to rank it higher, though it almost surely deserves to be ranked higher. New Order contributed a couple of songs to Salvation! and they were all quite good. Not good enough to justify purchasing that soundtrack, but seek them out on your own.

33. Waiting for the Sirens’ Call

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

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
Travel with a document
All across the continent

I just don’t like that rhyme there and it seems like the only reason the word “document” was included was because he needed a rhyme for “continent.” Every time I’ve listened to this song, I’ve moved it up a step or two. Given enough time, this could be one of my top 20 favorites. More excellent Peter Hook bass work, but again the whole band is pretty sharp on this. Shout out to Phil Cunningham who replaced Gillian Gilbert on this album and on Get Ready and continues to play with New Order to this day but who I don’t discuss at all because he’s not one of the original four. Not that he has a particularly huge contribution to this song as near as I can tell. Despite that one couplet above, this is actually a pretty strong lyric and a coherent song. Rock and pop bands tend to drift towards adult contemporary music the longer they’re together. This is a great adult contemporary song, which is maybe why I’m not ranking it higher. I dig it though, yes I do.

32. Video 5 8 6

This song has a complicated release history

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
This piece is an instrumental

This doesn’t especially sound like anything else New Order released as a single. Recorded in 1982, parts of this 22 minute piece (composed by Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris) later turned into “Blue Monday” and “586” (which does have a lyric) from Age of Consent. Its relentless and way, way ahead of its time. I hear a certain krautrock influence here (specifically Kraftwerk) but New Order is kind of creating something that few other popular bands were creating in 1982. It will make you want to dance forever.

31. Way of Life

From 1986’s Brotherhood, Promotional Single only

Garbage Lyric Highlight:
No, no, the lyrics here are decent

I often question the choices of record labels. Brotherhood was a great album with a very strong set of songs (anchored by “Bizarre Love Triangle”). “Way of Life” is a rather good song, but there’s “Paradise,” “Weirdo” and “Every Little Counts” just sitting there waiting to be singles. Whatever, Factory Records, you know what you’re doing (sic). “Way of Life” starts out with a heavy fake out before resolving to a peppy classic Peter Hook bass line and a lyric that is certainly very critical of somebody. Indeed, I wouldn’t want to be the target of that set of lyrics, no sir.

Coming Soon: No singles from Power, Corruption and Lies because there weren’t any from that album.

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