Very Short Thoughts on New Order, Hook, + “Music Complete”
by Joshua B. Hoe I have been reading some stuff about the new album by “New Order” (I put in quotes for the same reason “Pink Floyd” has been for the last several decades...It is not really a band until all significant members are accounted for) “Music Complete” and have even heard some good things.
I was pretty excited at first when I heard the album was being released...But, I totally forgot that there would be one major difference between this and the other post-peak New Order albums….No Peter Hook.
I have listened to Music Complete, and I have to disagree with the reviews that said Hook wasn't missed….And yes, I fully appreciate that the musicians present on “Music Complete” represents most of the lineup that was present for their classic period (Power, Corruption, and Lies, Low-life, and Brotherhood).
Let me also say that I have deep and abiding love for New Order...They will always be the dance music playing in the background of my memories of my young adulthood. I can never hear Temptation or any of the songs off of those great albums without being transported to a really good place.
Sure, some of the post Brotherhood stuff has been sub-par...But, their classic period was amazing. Proof? Okay, these are just the tracks I think are outstanding during the classic period:
Power Corruption + Lies: Age of Consent, The Village, Your Silent Face, Leave Me Alone, Blue Monday (or The Beach...kind of the same song).
Low-Life: Love Vigilantes, The Perfect Kiss, Sunrise, Elegia, Sub-Culture, Shellshock
Brotherhood: Wierdo, As it Was When it Was, Broken Promise, Way of Life, Bizarre Love Triangle, All Day Long
And, I would defend many of the songs on Get Ready.
And, my all-time fave Temptation (either the original 12” or the 7” - do not listen to the later version remixes) was released independent of any of the albums.
Okay, here is the thing...the rub...the issue….Why I am writing,
I have current strong feelings of dislike for Bernard Sumner….Maybe a strong way to put it….I think he is a decent songwriter but mostly awful lyricist...sometimes an embarrassing lyricist...He obviously has written some amazing songs that have stayed with me for most of my adult life...But, most of those songs were memorable to me mostly because of the bass lines.
New Order took advantage of having one of the most distinctive bass players in the history of the world on team NO...Peter Hook. Basically, on most NO tracks, Hooks bass handles the entire melody and allows everyone else to noodle. The strong skeleton of every memorable NO song (and for that matter every Joy Division song) is a catchy Peter Hook bass line.
Ego the Destroyer of Bands
Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner mostly hate each other. They have never gotten along very well (at least not in a very long time). As near as I can tell, it has always been over who should really get credit for the NO sound.
I come down strongly on the side of Hooky here. I just do. I never once said to myself…”Man, I am really digging what Bernard is saying here.”
There have been some great synth moments, and the song structures and the noodling on songs like Low-Life or Blue Monday are amazing...But, still, the attractive and pulsing spine has always been Hooky.
I actually, have been more aware of Stephan Morris’ drumming, in many cases, than Bernard’s singing or playing over the years.
I imagine sometimes Sumner feels a bit like Salieri in Amadeus, perfectly competent, occasionally brilliant, but he is stuck playing with a guy who is both transcendent and accidentally so. I am sure it has been maddening (even without Hook’s provocations over the years).
I will freely admit that I am 100% biased and that it could very well be part of Bernard’s genius that the music always seems not to be “about him” per se...But, still, I am totally opposed to the idea of New Order without Peter Hook.
After reading a billion interviews over the years, I think it really comes down to the fact that Hook things Sumner is a control freak who actually works hard in production to erase Hook’s contributions….While Sumner, I think, actively resents Hook’s contributions. I kind of feel like maybe Hook just shows up and kills it while for Sumner music might be real work.
Why couldn’t he do whatever he had to do to keep Hook in the fold? I dunno, they have been fighting over who should get credit for decades now...maybe it was just finally too much for both of them.
Geeze, I might even be wrong, maybe Bernard was the saint and made the right choices etc...But, I just love them much more with Hook on bass...That is how I see them...That is how I remember them.
I fully realize that the problem might be Hook, he might be a prick...Hell, I dunno.
When Brotherhood came out in the 80’s, I saw New Order play at the Bronco Bowl in Dallas Texas.
I already was pretty much in love with their take on dance music, and was very deeply into Joy Division.
The show was good, they played everything I was hoping to hear...I had a great time. But, I found, as I reflected on the concert, was that I was mesmerized by Peter Hook.
He played with his bass down around his knees, punk style...He had an aggression and swagger the entire show...He played like he was making statements...and his energy drove the concert.
The rest of the band, seemed almost like they were pushing buttons and disappearing into the darkness...The performance aspect of the show was entirely carried by the bass player. Bernard was the singer, but the stage was dominated by the bass player.
And, as I have mentioned before, his hooks...not the first time that pun has happened...drove my memory of the show and of the music. Without him, New Order would have been very drum active ambient music.
Without him, they would have been almost entirely invisible on stage.
It is very possible that Peter Hook is an impossible person to get along with….Maybe he has a massive ego and just cannot get along with the rest of the band.
Maybe the album will be a kick in the head, and it will take me right back to those good old days on the dance floors of Dallas.
But, I have a hard time imagining that I won’t be pining for one of those classic Peter Hook bass lines defining the songs.
Oh well…..You can’t go home again (maybe you can, I will have to hear the album).
How do you feel about New Order? Music Complete? The absence of Peter Hook? I would love to hear what you have to say, leave a comment!