like crystal/We break easy."
These two lyrics are the essence of the new New Order: They're tough but they're fragile. The album is split into extremes, between rough rockers and ambient dirges. In this way, New Order harness a raw sound reminiscent of Warsaw, the band's late-Seventies incarnation, before they added further darkness and desolation to their punk as Joy Division. The fragility comes from the following decade: the New Wave glide, synthed-up disco beats and new-romantic vocals that marked classic New Order. It was always a strange irony that in the Eighties, the bands that typified this brand of alternative culture (Depeche Mode, New Order, Heaven 17, Yaz) espoused much more traditional values of love, romance and heartache than the superstar acts of the time - Madonna, Prince and various hair-metal bands - who offered more controversy, titillation and decadence.An extreme example of this can be found on "Slow Jam," when Sumner sings, "I don't want the world to change/I like the way it is." The art of the British pop New Wave bands was never in wanting to change the world but in being overly sensitive to its changes. "Rock the Shack," the hardest-hitting song (and one of the best) on the album, gets aggressive about acceptance, with a shout-along chorus and extra vocal and guitar muscle from Primal Scream.
Fans hoping for straight-ahead New Order dance-floor classics won't get much of that here. Perhaps the band's strongest link with its past are the thick, melodic, up-pitched bass lines of Peter Hook, who blatantly steals his own hook from "Blue Monday" and transposes it onto the new album's "60 Miles an Hour." Elsewhere, the band vacillates between punk and ambient, updating its sound in places with more modern electronics, break-beat loops, bursts of guitar static and a visit from its temporary new guitarist, Billy Corgan, on the Smashing Pumpkins-ish "Turn My Way." With the forces of Eighties nostalgia threatening to swallow it, New Order have somehow managed to resist without repenting, turning out a catchy, beautiful album that looks to the past but refuses to be burdened by it.
(RS 881- November 8, 2001)