New Order - Power, Corruption, And Lies (1983, Qwest)
by Joshua B. Hoe
All-Time Albums Series
So, this week is Power, Corruption, and Lies.
I feel a bit bad that this is the 17th All-Time album in the series, and my first mention of Joy Division or of New Order.
I will freely admit that I sometimes feel like an inadequate vessel for communicating how important certain albums have been to me or to my life. I totally get that having the ego to start an "All-Time Albums" series is at odds with the notion that I am a poor messenger for those albums. But, I often do feel that way.
My second favorite group of all time is Joy Division (The Clash is first as you probably know). But I have a secret to share about New Order.
Power, Corruption, and Mea Culpa
I was a New Order "fan" before I was a Joy Division fan.
I feel somewhat embarrassed to admit this now, but it is true.
For those of you that don't know, New Order originally was all of the members of Joy Division except Ian Curtis (who tragically committed suicide). As of Power, Corruption, and Lies - New Order added Gillian Gilbert on keyboards to the core of JD (Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner, and Stephen Morris).
Many people tell the story of NO acting as if Gilbert only became a member b/c she was dating Morris, but in fact she had been in a band that practiced next door to JD and also played with JD several times. So, give GG respect and props (plus I think she was pretty critical to their best albums).
I knew about Ian Curtis, but only that he had hung himself (and that it was a huge tragedy, but I had no context for it at the time).
One thing you might not get about the 80's. Music was an investment. I had to take the money I earned at Mazzio's Pizza in Tulsa and make tough choices about what albums to buy.
Often I had to make those choices blind. You just looked through bins and tried to figure out what "looked" like your kind of music.
So, while you tried to be into whatever was cool on MTV or that your friends were listening to, you also could only own a certain amount of music yourself (or at least I could only afford to own a certain amount of music myself).
And as I went to college, my funds were even tighter because I started to have new priorities and responsibilities. I would often spend hours at record stores just creating mental lists of all the albums that someday I would be able to afford to buy.
I went to college in Denton Texas (or at least started college in Denton). Another thing that you might not understand about the 80's was that music tended to take its sweet time percolating from one area of the world to another.
So, yes, PC&L came out in 1983 but it really reached where I was around 1985. It mostly exploded in Texas because of the unprecedented popularity of the 12" for "Blue Monday" (b/c The Beach).
"Blue Monday" was so popular that radio commercials for car dealerships in Texas were using Blue Monday as background music. This is George Strait country we are talking about here.
You could not escape Blue Monday.
You might be asking yourself, "Self, why is he talking about Blue Monday?" "Blue Monday isn't on PC&L."
Generally true, but not true universally.
"Blue Monday" was so popular that the version of PC&L that was being sold in 1985 had BOTH "Blue Monday" and "The Beach" on it (a slightly modified version of BM).
If I remember correctly, the end of side one was "Blue Monday" and the end of side two was "The Beach" but I could be off.
Anyway, everything about New Order at this time happened in the context of the insane clamor for "Blue Monday" (for a long time, BM was the biggest selling single of all time I believe, much more detail on this in the Peter Hook book on The Hacienda).
I remember taking debate trips where we listened to the cassette version all the way to the tournament and all the way back. Nobody even considered replacing the tape.
So, if you are wondering how I embraced New Order before I became a huge fan of Joy Division, "Blue Monday Mania" explains it.
A Much Better Album
PC&L is a really great album, much greater than just its monster hit "Blue Monday (a great dance song for sure)." Movement had seemed to many "too much Joy Division" so this was the bands attempt to really break from their history.
And at the core of this attempt to "break away" is a great deal of wrestling with the sadness at the core of the break.
But this is a strength IMHO not a weakness. There is a nobleness to PC&L and a bunch of great songs.
Songs like "Age of Consent" with it's clever Steven Morris drum pattern and catchy Bernard Sumner guitar riffs. Towards the end it even has some scratchy guitar parts that are an honorable precursor to the style of play on a song like "Creep").
Songs like "The Village" with Gillian Gilbert's catchy keyboards and some of Bernard's most memorable lyrical hooks "Our Love Is Like the flowers" "the rain, the sea, and the hours." Also present, some of the typically incredible bass styling of Peter Hook (to my mind, the single person who defines Post-Punk).
One of my favorite songs in New Order's whole catalog has to be "Your Silent Face." This song is Bernard Sumner at his very best and utilizes what is New Order's signature sound - where Peter Hook's bass takes the melody and allows Bernard to fiddle around in the spaces around the melody.
"Your Silent Face" is a song I would want to listen to while looking out over the ocean or looking down on the world from on top of a tall mountain. It has majesty and power. It has a sadness at it's core but what seems like a defiance too.
A beautiful song.
And PC&L has another of my favorites in the entire New Order canon "Leave Me Alone" which is a sad and beautiful song that tries to filter heartbreak through existential inevitability but still ends with emotional pain and sadness.
"On a thousand islands in the sea, I see a thousand people just like me"
And ends at:
"But for these last few days, leave me alone."
No matter how much we are just another pebble in a sea full of pebbles, we all still hurt.
Peter Hook + Bernard
Some people spend all their time worrying about the fights between the real housewives while others prefer keeping up with Kardashians. Usually I could care less. But, I do care about the ongoing battle between Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook.
To date, I have taken the side of Peter Hook (because I have blind allegiance to Hooky, who is like a bass God to me).
But there was something that happened between them that was magical to me (when everything was working). I hope they find a way to work it out and at some point go on a tour and I get to see them play the entire PC&L album again.
I was lucky enough to see New Order at the Bronco Bowl in Dallas for the Brotherhood tour and it was one of the greatest concert experiences of my life.
Anyway, I hope I did PC&L justice, it is an amazing album (with or without Blue Monday).
What version of PC&L did you buy? How did you find New Order? What is your favorite New Order album? Let me know what you think, the only thing missing from this story is your opinion, leave a comment!