Power, Corruption & Lies by New Order


7. Aug. 2010, 8:58

New Order's Power, Corruption & Lies.

Track 1, "Age of Consent":

The bassline bursts from the silence and never lets up. Indeed, the next thirty seconds are build-up: first the bassline, then manic drumming, then ringing guitar, then groaning keyboards, and finally a lonely voice. Off and running now, we won't be stopping. Energy and insistence dominate the song ... Well, and the bass--always the bass. Its tone is a little too high; it almost rings. Why? Because it's both laying down the melodic foundation of the song, as well as keeping things moving (with the help of breathless drumming). Against this rhythmic/melodic backdrop, the other instruments' entrances are events: the guitar struggles against the bass for melodic supremacy, and immense synth washes push other sounds aside. Let those sounds compete for your attention, and ignore the lyrics. They're standard rigmarole about a crumbling relationship--and not a word of it matters, for words can't approach the power and impact of the music, which says more than words ever could.

Track 2, "We All Stand":

Man, is this exercise in inertia and lethargy ever a buzzkill in the aftermath of "Age of Consent," with its delirious motion and energy. Denying everything "Age of Consent" had to offer--viz. energy, uplift, drive--the song leaves us in a morass of weary melancholia. Take the repeated lyrical phrases, for instance: "Life goes on and on," "forever to be still," "three miles to go," "at the end of the road"--it's all pointless waiting "in this real life fantasy," where the narrator never manages progress, and seems no more motivated to reach his destination than when he began. It's hard to blame him, though, as the torpid tempo of this music wouldn't keep anyone going for long. Yet the song refuses to die out, sluggishly marching us through fives minutes of false endings. What can you say? There's a valuable theoretical insight here, I suppose: that electronica needn't be all bubbly pop or sprightly rock. But eh, I don't have to like it their way of getting that point across.

Track 3, "The Village":

Buoyant and immensely catchy. To my tin ear, this sounds like a sure-fire hit--though it is difficult to crank out world-beating #1 hit singles when you never get around to, like, releasing them as singles. The lyrics even sound sorta upbeat if you ignore everything but the choruses, which is what pop music devotees are going to be doing anyway. (We can just cut out that stuff about their love dying two years ago, no? Oh, yes, yes, artistic integrity and whatnot. But making hits and lots of money is good too, no?)

Track 4, "5 8 6":

This is the dance song/club track on the album. And while it’s a suitable representative of the genre, I find New Order's dabblings in this territory baffling: the songs are invariably catchy, overflowing with hooks and energy, and yet uncannily inhuman and artificial, displaying no genuine passion. Take the first two minutes, which suggest this is another lifeless, meandering number (think back to “We All Stand”). When the facade of the first two minutes fades out, a whole other song takes its place. But even with its quicker tempo and stepped-up energy, the powerful groove of the last five and a half minutes is as lifeless and cold as the opening. All the sounds that build up and adorn its central groove lack depth: the drum machine's thin, the synthetic rhythm track lacks any visceral punch, Barney’s singing never stands out, etc. Consequently, there’s no dynamic range--no spiraling highs or pounding lows--and everything ends up sounding clean, clear, and kinda boring.

Track 5, "Your Silent Face":

Possessed of a cold, abstract sort of beauty. Those huge washes of synth seem like they should be warm and enveloping--but they never seem to wash over me. Instead, it seems like they're always out there in the distance, swirling around me in geometrical patterns that are lovely but completely indifferent to human concerns. And the lyrics reinforce this impression: they seem to be about giving up on communication, on feeling, on hope. It's as if Bernie is deliberately closing himself off from the entire world of human interaction, experience, and emotion. (I suppose it's not coincidental that this song is nearly always wholly electronic when it plays in my head.) Yet he's not walling himself off out of anger or despair--he just seems indifferent to, or impatient with, the human world. He's wrapped up in other things, things that aren't for you or I to understand.

Track 8, "Leave Me Alone":

An anthem for those who seek solitude. It's a song about leaving things behind: rock and roll, which New Order are about to abandon in favor of electronic pop, as well as human interaction, from which the narrator is withdrawing into self-imposed exile. While the lyrics sometimes seek to inflate these changes into grand poetic gestures, the insistence of the drums undermines the melodramatic possibilities and refuses the narrator (and us) any despair. Indeed, the entire song swirls around the stuttering, tightly circling drum pattern, which suggests a mind running through the same thoughts again and again. The high, ringing guitar tone provides emotional weight to those thoughts: it's plaintive, but never manipulative. Throughout the song, Hook's bass seems to be searching for a melody to move the song forward. But it does little more than support the drums, and it's nearly drowned out by the guitar. Forward progress isn't possible quite yet; we need more time to think.


  • doiscareyou

    586 is by no means boring.

    23. Sep. 2010, 12:26
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