Few rock bands have had as daunting a past to live up to, and overcome, as New Order. But Power Corruption & Lies is a remarkable declaration of independence; for the first time since lead singer Ian Curtis hanged himself three years ago, the survivors of Joy Division have shrugged off the legacy of that band's grim, deathly majesty and produced an album that owes as much to the currents of 1983 as to the ghosts of 1980. This record is a quantum leap over Movement, the band's first album, and over most of the music coming out of... Read More
Leap is the appropriate word, because on the surface, this is largely a stirring, jumpy dance record. Forget about New Order's reputation as gloom mongers or avatars of postpunk iciness; forget about the artiness and mystique that envelop them. Just put this stuff on the radio, in clubs or on American Bandstand: you can dance to it, it deserves a ninety-eight, and a song like "Age of Consent" merits heavy rotation, not reverence.
That's not to say New Order have turned into A Flock of Vultures or anything. But there's a newfound boldness on Power that was sorely missing from Movement. On that LP, New Order were tentatively trying to break free of Joy Division's style, if not their tone; too often, the result was turgid and solemn and sprinkled with the kind of whistles, whooshes and beeps that suggest novices halfheartedly tinkering with dance-oriented rock.
Working on subsequent singles toward a surer control of the studio and a more ambiguous emotional stance, the band hit its stride with the epiphanic "Temptation." A tenacious, gripping, rock-hard dance tune, it was also the first New Order song to suggest that maybe love doesn't always tear us apart that, in fact, it just might bind us together, though at great risk. (That song and four others make up the highly recommended EP New Order: 1981-1982.)
Though not as forceful as "Temptation," the songs on Power glow with confidence musical confidence, mostly. While Steve Morris' drums weave patterns around the unrelenting kick of an electronic drum machine, the band masterfully interlaces layer after layer of sound: Bernard Albrecht's alternately slashing and alluring guitar lines, Peter Hook's melodic bass playing, broad washes of keyboard color from Gillian Gilbert and such percussive effects as chimes. It's a bracing, exhilarating sound, equally suited to feverish dance workouts like "Age of Consent" and "586" as to such murkier, more impressionistic outings as "Your Silent Face."
Lyrically, New Order still rely too readily on emotional vagueness and stock portentous images. Having partially abandoned the frigid, nocturnal chill that permeated Curtis' work, the band's current viewpoint is closer to simple pessimism than outright despair. Still, the group likes to draw the drapes and usher in a little darkness at the end of its songs. Power