First album together in eight years finds band returning to its roots.
For many years over the past two decades, New Order crafted cynical synth-pop that radiated with alternative dancefloor chic. But on Get Ready, the band’s first record together in eight years, New Order have done something they haven’t tried since their pre-Order days.
They’ve rocked out.
While the album still shimmers and shivers with electronic textures, it’s anchored by organic instrumentation and galvanic grooves. “60 Miles an Hour,” Get Ready’s second single, sounds like a beefier spinoff of the band’s hit “Blue Monday,” and “Rock the Shack” is a cross between the Stooges and the Rolling Stones.
“Dance music tends to be a solitary affair,” bassist Peter Hook said from his home in Manchester, England. “People work on a computer for a while, then bring something in. But getting back together after being apart for six years, we wanted to play as a group, which is more of what rock music is about.”
Some of the music on Get Ready is reminiscent of the songs Hook, drummer Stephen Morris and guitarist Bernard Sumner (then Bernard Albrecht) created as members of Joy Division. The pioneering goth/post-punk band came to an end in 1980 when singer Ian Curtis hanged himself.
At that point, the group changed its name to New Order, and after two familiar-sounding singles, dramatically shifted its musical direction. Now, after decades of running from the past, New Order find themselves returning to their roots.
“It wasn’t a conscious decision,” Hook said. “It’s just that as we played together, it made us feel a bit like how we felt when we were in Joy Division. We were beginning again quite fresh, really getting the energy from the guitars and from the clicking of playing together.”
As unusual as it is to hear New Order rocking steady, it’s equally surprising to find the band getting along after years of tension and acrimony. Especially since the group’s demise in 1993 was accompanied by the collapse of its label, Factory, and its dance club, the Hacienda, both of which left the group in a state of financial disarray.
But it’s that very angst that makes Get Ready such a powerful disc – not that the bandmembers were at each other’s throats again. In fact, they got along so well they were worried they wouldn’t be able to summon the artistic venom they were after. But the specters of the past provided more than enough fuel as the band’s acerbic muse.
“You don’t get many chances in the world, and you don’t want to throw them away,” Hook explained. “We worked very hard for our chances, and to lose Factory and the Hacienda through no fault of our own was very, very upsetting. I think the energy of the record came from the freedom of getting our music back after it being so nearly lost.”
That energy and enthusiasm are evident throughout the record. “Crystal,” the first single, is ebullient and enigmatic, driven by a brooding bassline, clattering drum machines, sandpaper guitars, singing keyboards and ultra-pop vocals. The video, which adheres to New Order’s tradition of never featuring the actual bandmembers, depicts a young band kicking out the jams.
In the studio, New Order had some help in the fun factory. “Rock the Shack” was a collaboration with Primal Scream vocalist Bobby Gillespie and guitarist Andrew Innes. “Turn My Way,” with its ethereal vocals and melancholy atmospheres, features guest vocals by Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan, who also played live with the band on Moby’s Area: One tour earlier this year.
“I’ve known Billy since he was 15,” Hook said with a laugh. “He came to see us in Chicago and wanted to meet us because he said he was a big Joy Division fan. Five years later, he was in the Smashing Pumpkins and they were huge. We’ve kept in touch through the years. So when we wrote ‘Turn My Way,’ Bernard said, ‘This would sound really good with Billy on it.’ So we rang him up, and he more or less came running.”
If Get Ready is well-received Stateside, the group plans to return for an extensive U.S. tour. In the meantime, the band will play dates across Europe and continue working on new material. New Order have already got four songs in the can and will release an EP next year called New Order Vs. Chemical Brothers, a collaboration with the popular electronic duo.
With his band back on track and enjoying itself for the first time in years, Hook is grateful for everything he’s experienced, even the low points.
“The greatest thing that ever happened to me was when New Order stopped and I got thrown out into the cold, hard world right when we basically didn’t have any money,” he said. “It really was a character-building experience. It’s widened my horizons and made me more confident in myself and made me enjoy life more. After a couple years away from New Order we learned to appreciate the good things.”