by Scott Sterling-Wilder

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The gang's all here
Out Of Time’s Carapace
New Order is back touring and Bernard Sumner is back talking, somewhat

Although officially reformed over two years ago the New Order members didn’t appear in a hurry to record another album, a follow-up to their 1993’s ‘Republic’. There were myriad of other interests to occupy their time plus the general lack of communications among the four principal members: Bernard Sumner, Peter ‘Hooky’ Hook, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert. Having put their differences aside New Order’s ‘Get Ready’ appears to satisfy fans of all the band’s creative periods.

It is a record that is as much contemporary as it is a review of the outfit's entire career with, for instance, ‘Primitive Notion’ certain to satisfy even the earliest fans, those of their original incarnation as Joy Division while guests like ex-Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan and Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie add different flavours. (Sumner and Gillespie originally collaborated on ‘Out Of Control’ for the Chemical Brothers’ album ‘Surrender’.) But, in general, it is the New Order of yore...

“Getting back together,” Bernard Sumner remarks with an air of apathy, “wasn’t difficult but certainly had its moments. We are a group of people who stopped hanging out together a long time ago, we all have our own different lives, families, different friends but we are also New Order. It is a collective identity that often turns out to be really intense but that’s what makes us this band in particular. We needed time to get back into a group state of mind; when you do your own thing there is only you or one other person you need to consult and consider. There are four individuals here and all have to be taken into the equation. But, I feel we all have matured enough to be more tolerant and can listen to other’s opinions.”

Vicious range

It’s a strange affair but when known and respected musicians with already proven back catalogue embark upon something lateral, any out-of-outfit project has a problem convincing people of its validity and untainted integrity. It’s happened to the New Order’s side projects, be it Electronic – Johnny Marr (of the premier 1980s indie-rockers The Smiths) and Sumner’s combo, Hooky’s Revenge and Monaco outfits and Morris/Gilbert’s The Other Two. Under these alternate formats they produced 8 albums with Electronic’s eponymous debut being the most successful that peaked at No. 2 in Britain in 1991.

“Well, maybe a band needs all the years to define its own sound, “ Sumner reflects, “and when you do something separate people are interested but it can never match what they expect. Also, you are more in control and thus stamp it with your identity and I’m on the perfectionist side which might impair spontaneity; at the same time it tends to get less plush which people have got used to with the basic band.”

"The bottom line is that you need to have in your songwriting – emotions. Without it there is no song..."

History of ®evolution

The origin of the band can be located in the prime Brit-punk days of mid-1977 when Ian Curtis with Sumner, Hooky and Morris rehearsed under The Stiff Kittens moniker, becoming Warsaw for the first shows but soon renamed Joy Division. Two albums, both as seminal as hell, later the band was no more after Curtis, following a bout of depression, hanged himself on 18 May 1980. The remaining three members resurfaced as New Order that, soon after the debut single ‘Ceremony’, added a keyboard/synthesiser player, Gillian Gilbert who’d go to marry the drummer boy, Morris.

Sumner, born Dicken but using surname Albrecht during the Joy Division days, is an introverted character, speaking quietly and almost cautiously, as usually dressed casual-but-stylish (having turned 45 in January), is well aware of his legacy, “The shadow of the past”, as Bob Dylan defined it, forever cast over his creativity. But, after 23-odd years of music making, the inevitable question of motivation must troubled his mind?

“Work and success for me is security,” Sumner states frankly, “and that becomes more important when you have children. Musicians are notoriously insecure and this is a business where there are no guarantees. You can put a CD out and be totally ignored... It hasn’t happened yet but it can happen... Yeah, insecurity is a big motivator for me.”

When you look at the top bands that were supposedly left-field in the 1980s, The Smiths, New Order, Depeche Mode and U2, the first three couldn’t benefit from the record company’s big-budget push and were additionally burdened with keeping together, and fiscally afloat, independent record labels (Depeche Mode are still at it, actually). When the first pair mentioned stopped working the companies closed down (Rough Trade and Factory, respectively). Unfortunately, The Smiths disappeared down the history’s waste pipe but it is truly good to have New Order back out of its carapace.

Tour dates:

New Order play Brixton Academy, London, 10 – 12 October

Scott Sterling-Wilder
New Order's 'Get Ready' is available on London/WEA