Saturday, August 25, 2007

Trolling the Underground: New Order July 17, 1989

I've never been a fan of dance music, especially the hyper-electronic nightclub stuff. While I can go see a blues show and dance myself to exhaustion, or join in with the fish-out-of-water- frolics that characterize a Grateful Dead audience, I just can't seem to move to music that has no other purpose than to be moved to. Perhaps it's that stronger purpose that makes New Order one of only two (with Yaz) electronica bands that I appreciate, although I still can't dance to them.

New Order is one of those enigmatic bands that can have songs I love and songs I hate on the same disc. It was in 1983 when I first went away to college and started listening to what the city kids were listening to that I discovered a beautifully haunting synth tune called Your Silent Face. I later learned that this is the perfect song to listen to while driving on a city expressway, like the Kennedy in Chicago, in the middle of the night when no one else is around. The peaceful yet sad melody complements the highway tunnels with the evenly spaced lights on each side in a way I can't describe, but can remember vividly 20+ years later. There were several other songs on that same album, called Power, Corruption, and Lies, that I like a lot as well.

On the other hand, I absolutely hated, and still hate, Blue Monday and it's B-side, The Beach. I don't care that it's the biggest selling single of the 80s. Those two songs just had nothing to say.

So as I began my little obsession with live recordings it became one of my goals to find a good sounding recording, preferably a soundboard, that had Your Silent Face and my other favorite, Temptation (which has a simple but wicked guitar line). As a bonus, I hoped to find one that had those two but not the two I hate. That's not too much to ask, is it?

Of course it is. They played Blue Monday a lot. And it seemed that this band like several others, were haunted by the spectre of poor quality bootlegs. It took a long time to find a soundboard recording at all, and even those weren't sounding too good. I finally found one that sounds pretty good a couple months ago that has both songs. It also has Blue Monday, but I don't dwell on that.

This is one time I can't delve deeply into the history, because I don't know much of it. While I appreciate this music a lot, I never felt a personal connection to the band like I have with Pink Floyd, the Dead and others. I do know that they came from the ashes of a punk band called Joy Division (I refuse to use the commonly applied term "post-punk", because it just sounds farooking stupid) which dissolved when one member committed suicide. Their sound became a bit bouncier and less gloomy as they chose a new direction as a new band.

I can say that I was very surprised listening to it, as their sound is far more layered in the studio than it is live. In fact, I initially thought that the recording was faulty, that I was missing a synthesizer or five. It isn't though, they simply keep their concerts honest by not playing a lot of taped stuff in order to emulate their studio sound. I realized that when I heard Your Silent Face and heard everything I expected to (albeit with much weaker bass than I'd like to hear).

This was recorded At Pine Knob Music Theater near Detroit Mi. on July 17, 1989.

Here's Your Silent Face (It ends a few notes early due to bad tracking on the maker's part)

Here's Temptation.

Did you dance?

The music doesn't stop here. Come see my Trolling the Underground tribute to jazz legend Max Roach at Under the Bridge.


Natsthename said...

I don't dance to it, either. BUt I absolutely love "Temptation"!

ANd I am SO WITH you on calling music "post-this-or-that" because it sounds so rock-snobbish. I hate using the term "seminal" in referring to a band or music, too, since all the big rock snob writers use it. Sure, it really does apply sometimes, but I think most use it just to prove their "I know everything and you don't" attitude.

Joe the Troll said...

"Seminal" is DEFINITELY overused by people who write about music.

I first heard "post-punk" in reference to XTC, but I always thought they were more "Pre-after-punk", or perhaps "sub-mid-punk".

Cheezy said...

Nice post. New Order were quite possibly my favourite band of the 80s. I loved Joy Division too, but in a totally different way.

For me, Blue Monday is like the Stairway to Heaven of dance music. It's been so ubiquitous in my life that I can't pass objective judgement about it anymore except to say that I loved it when it first came out (when I was about 12 or so) and, when I finally got to see them live a couple of years ago, at Glastonbury, I was quite happy that they didn't play it. Whereas your more casual New Order fan was probably hanging out for it. Haha! Tough luck!

My absolute favourite New Order song is the very raw, undancey, 'Sunrise' from the brilliant 'Lowlife' album. Either that or 'True Faith', which had one of the best videos ever made.

But 'Subculture', 'Ceremony' (featuring Ian Curtis's last lyrics), 'Love Vigilates', 'Temptation', '1963' and 'State of the Nation' are all great songs too.

By the way... those links didn't work for me, by the way, but it's OK cos I know both songs well :)

PS: I see that the band are starting to implode, in the time honoured way:

Sad-ish, but very predictable. And it's not like they're ever going to be what they were now, anyway.

Joe the Troll said...

Cheezy- you don't know the LIVE versions! I'll e-mail them to you.

Those fans you mention remnd me of folks who would go to one Grateful Dead show and expect to hear "Casey Jones". I think I finally heard that around my 52nd or so Dead show.........

Gledwood said...

Hey I know what you mean about the dance music... I used to be a manic raver and clubber ... but I had to stop and basically all the drugs got to me and I ended up with a habit on heroin!
now I'm trying to adapt to a methadone script and spending money on things like CDs instead of drugs.... I've desperately been seeking things out that do NOT have druggie connotations... which means stictly no dance music... I even, in the name of adventurousness ventured towards an artist who will remain nameless due to durgesome middle of the roadness... o man! anything but drugs...
... Anyway I'm just dropping in via a friend of a friend's site... thought I would say hi while I'm here... and also invite you to mine.. you're most welcome to drop by any time... http://gledwood2.blogspot is the place to be... do say hi if you come ...
... anyway, take it e.z. and all the best to you... from....
"Vol 2" ...

Jefe said...

I never got into any of the electronic dance music of the 80s, including New Order. I played guitar in some pretty heavy punk/alt bands, so I was quite averse to it. I wanted to see people jumping up and down and banging into each other, not dancing. Okay, that's not entirely true. I didn't mind seeing hotties dance, which is why I also played in a blues band. But I didn't want to see dudes dance. Not that there's anything wrong with that, dancing dudes.

"I later learned that this is the perfect song to listen to while driving on a city expressway, like the Kennedy in Chicago, in the middle of the night when no one else is around."

My favorite song for driving on a lone stretch of road in the middle of the night when no one else is around is "Wicked Game" by Chris Isaak.

Jodie K said...

I would dance all frickin' night to New Order, often on top of the speakers. I still keep a New Order CD in the car at all times. Couldn't pick an ultimate fave, but "Bizarre Love Triangle" and “Truth Faith” never fail.

OMD, Erasure, Psych Furs, Yaz, Depeche Mode...I was so that girl.

O' Tim said...

If you want an entertaining 90-minute capsule of the history of Madchester and how its seminal post-punk scene was influenced by recently deceased founder of Factory Records Tony Wilson then you should check out the film 24 Hour Party People which is available on DVD.

And if you like reading run-on sentences then start again from the top.