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Best New Order Songs: 20 Classics From The Factory Floor
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List & Guides

Best New Order Songs: 20 Classics From The Factory Floor

Merging angular post-punk guitar with cutting-edge electronica, the best New Order songs revolutionised British rock music.

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Surviving the loss of vocalist Ian Curtis, Joy Division’s three instrumentalists, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Bernard Sumner, turned tragedy to triumph when they regrouped as New Order and added keyboardist Gillian Gilbertto the line-up. In the years that followed, the group rose to become one of Factory Records’ leading lights, and the best New Order songs would see the band morph into one of the most revered alternative rock outfits of all time.

In stark contrast to the darkness inherent in Joy Division’s music, New Order turned towards the light. Incorporating electronica and the sounds of New York’s nightclubs into their angular guitar framework, the Manchester quartet blueprinted a singular sound of their own which kept abreast of the dancefloor’s ever-changing trends but also reflected their natural melancholia. They’ve amassed a formidable catalogue over the past four decades, of which our 20 best New Order songs is just a starting point.

20: Dreams Never End (1981)

Recorded while they were still coming to terms with the loss of Ian Curtis, New Order found creating their debut album, Movement, a struggle – both emotionally and creatively – with Bernard Sumner, writing in his memoir, Chapter And Verse, likening it to being “in a car in which the steering wasn’t quite working properly and we’d lost the map”. While the album was a transitional affair, songs such as the strident, chiming, Peter Hook-sung Dreams Never End reveal that it was by no means devoid of inspiration.

19: Restless (2015)

Their first album of new material in a decade, New Order’s tenth record, Music Complete, was one of 2015’s most hotly-anticipated releases – and it didn’t disappoint. Though generally more focused on electronics and the dancefloor than the band’s two albums of the 2000s, Get Ready (2001) and Waiting For The Sirens’ Call (2005), it also featured several excellent, guitar-driven anthems that can take their place among the best New Order songs. Arguably the strongest of these, Restless found Bernard Sumner laying into a modern world obsessed with instant gratification (“I want a nice car, a girlfriend who’s as pretty as a star/I want respect, as much as I can get”), while its widescreen musical backdrop oozed with the life-affirming melancholy that no one does quite like New Order.

18: Dream Attack (1989)

Undeniably a career high point, New Order’s fifth album, Technique, was partially conceived in Ibiza and released in 1989, while the Madchester explosion was at its height. Despite kicking off with the rave-friendly Fine Time, the record showcased both the band’s rockier side and their love of electronic pop, and it culminated with the graceful – and seemingly effortless – Dream Attack, which the band themselves rank among the best New Order songs. Gillian Gilbert perhaps put it best when she told The Guardian, “To me, Dream Attack sums up the whole album. It’s bright, breezy and uplifting… a good song to walk off into the sunset to.”

17: World In Motion (1990)

The very idea of a leftfield post-punk outfit such as New Order being tasked with writing an uplifting song to represent England at the World Cup finals still seems bizarre. Yet that’s exactly what happened when the band – with a little help from actor and comedian Keith Allen – soundtracked the national team’s 1990 campaign in Italy. To this day, the end results polarise opinion, but World In Motion (it had the working title “E For England”, until the FA clocked the reference to the drug Ecstasy) was certainly a significant cut above most football anthems. Providing New Order with their sole UK No.1, its inclusion among any list of the best New Order songs is mandatory.

16: Elegia (1985)

After Ian Curtis’ tragic suicide, his bandmates – understandably – struggled to process the loss of their close friend, and later commemorated him in song. In 1982, they dedicated a ghostly, one-off John Peel session recording of Keith Hudson’s Turn The Heater On to Curtis, and later paid him a more lasting tribute with Low-Life’s Elegia – a haunting, cinematic instrumental which has since caught the ear of a wider audience thanks to its inclusion in the soundtracks to both Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and the Netflix series Stranger Things.

15: Thieves Like Us (1984)

1984’s Thieves Like Us doesn’t have the cultural cachet of the groundbreaking Blue Monday or the Arthur Baker-produced Confusion, but it still sits comfortably among the best New Order songs. Baker also suggested the song’s title, but New Order recorded it under their own steam, and it shows just how adept they had become at wringing warmth and humanity from their machines. Couched in glorious melodies and accentuated by a striking Peter Hook bassline, Thieves Like Us further benefitted from one of Bernard Sumner’s most vulnerable vocals. His sardonic lyric (“I’ve lived my life on alcohol/I’ve lived my life on pills”) only added to the attraction.

14: Love Vigilantes (1985)

Love Vigilantes opened 1985’s Low-Life, but its genesis can be traced back to 1979, when Joy Division supported Buzzcocks on a major UK tour. Bernard Sumner was alerted to the possibilities of penning narrative-style songs after listening to Buzzcocks’ road crew play narrative-heavy country tunes in their van; he adopted a similar storytelling technique for Love Vigilantes, in which the song’s protagonist is a soldier longing to return from war to see his wife and child. The sting in the tail, however, is that he arrives home as a ghost, witnessing his wife’s tears as she reads the telegram telling her he’s dead. The song is made all the more powerful as the sadness of the lyric works in sharp contrast to the music, which ranks among the sunniest and most uplifting of all the guitar-based New Order tunes.

13: All The Way (1989)

The punchiest and most anthemic of Technique’s clutch of guitar-driven songs, All The Way found Bernard Sumner taking a few digs the price of fame, his band’s critics and possibly those still yearning for New Order to sound more like Joy Division (“But I don’t give a damn about what those people say/They pick you up and kick you out/They hurt you every day”). However, he shied away from succumbing to bitterness during the song’s philosophical chorus (“It takes years to find the nerve to be apart from what you’ve done/To find the truth inside yourself and not depend on anyone”), and the track enters the ranks the of the best New Order songs thanks to a rousing performance from the band, during which all four members shone.

12: Crystal (1993)

Great album though it was, 1993’s Republic was released in the wake of Factory Records’ bankruptcy, and the record’s recording was fraught with difficulties. In the wake of its release, New Order went on extended hiatus, though they reconvened for the 1998 Reading Festival and finally followed Republic up with their seventh album, Get Ready, in 2001. Arguably the most guitar-heavy record of their career, it kicked off with the brooding, yet infectious UK Top 10 hit Crystal, which has remained a staple of the band’s live set.

11: Bizarre Love Triangle (1986)

Almost as synonymous with New Order as the ubiquitous Blue Monday, Brotherhood highlight Bizarre Love Triangle was only a minor hit as a standalone single in the UK, but it has enjoyed a remarkable afterlife on the international stage. A massive underground success in the US and a Top 5 smash in Australia, the song has since been covered by artists ranging from Donna Lewis to The Black Eyed Peas, and its irresistible melodies and blissful chorus have even been reimagined in both Chinese and Mandarin, by Amanda Lee and Sandy Lam, respectively.

10: Vanishing Point (1989)

New Order began recording Technique in Ibiza, so it’s often (erroneously) regarded as their acid house album. In reality, much of it was actually captured when the band returned to England and decamped to Peter Gabriel’s rural Real World studio just outside Bath, though a little Mediterranean heat does warm the cockles on the record’s more dancefloor-inclined workouts. Surely the best of these, Vanishing Point was streaked with a little of that elusive Balearic warmth but also plenty of the band’s patented Mancunian melancholy. It still feels sunny, yet tinged with sadness and more than a little ethereal.

9: The Perfect Kiss (1985)

Another classic New Order song which, in retrospect, punches above its weight, Low-Life’s first single, The Perfect Kiss, stalled at No.46 in the UK, but it was a huge hit on Billboard’s dance charts in the US, and its atypically airbrushed promo video (shot by The Silence Of The Lambs’ director, Jonathan Demme) further raised its profile. The song was edited down to under five minutes for the album, but the definitive take, easily claiming its place among the best New Order songs, is surely the unexpurgated, nine-minute 12” version, replete with Peter Hook’s sweeping basslines and epic crescendos.

8: Everything’s Gone Green (1981)

With encouragement from producer Martin Hannett, Joy Division successfully incorporated synths into their arsenal on their final album, Closer, so it was logical for New Order to continue to investigate electronica. After Bernard Sumner discovered it was possible to synch a drum machine up to a synth with an oscillator, the band made their first foray into using a primitive, juddering sequenced rhythm (influenced by Donna Summer’s I Feel Love), which became the bedrock for their second single, 1981’s Everything’s Gone Green. A significant milestone on the band’s journey towards melding electronica with their hallmark post-punk sound, the song also marked the final time they worked with Hannett before they began producing their own records.

7: Regret (1993)

Overshadowed by Factory Records’ financial collapse and internal tensions, the recording of New Order’s sixth album, Republic, wasn’t a pleasant experience. However, the band eventually triumphed over adversity and emerged with a consistently fine record which yielded a UK No.1, a Mercury Music Prize nomination and gold discs on both sides of the Atlantic. The confident yet wistful Regret (the album’s opening cut and flagship single) also rewarded New Order with their biggest US hit. They memorably celebrated its success by filming a Top Of The Pops performance of the song from California’s Venice Beach, where they were joined by actor David Hasselhoff and other members of the Baywatch cast.

6: Blue Monday (1983)

1983’s Blue Monday was initially conceived as an attempt to fashion a track that New Order’s electronic gadgets could play themselves, nullifying the need for the band to play encores. However, the song took on a life of its own when experiments with their newly acquired Oberheim DMX drum machine and Emulator sampling synth led the band into creating the sublime, machine-tooled smash hit which arguably defines them to this day. Blue Monday wasn’t immediately accepted by New Order’s die-hard supporters (“A lot of the audience mistrusted what we were doing, because we weren’t Joy Division anymore,” Stephen Morris recently told Record Collector magazine), but it quickly became hailed as one of the best New Order songs, filling dancefloors the world over and ushering the group into the mainstream.

5: Your Silent Face (1983)

Ian Curtis had always loved Kraftwerk, and his bandmates also expressed a fondness for the pioneering electronic music outfit, so it’s no surprise their influence is detectable in some of New Order’s earlier forays into electronica – most noticeably on Power, Corruption & Lies’ Your Silent Face, which started life with the working title “KW1”. However, while the song’s sequenced rhythms and glacial melodies clearly tipped the hat to Kraftwerk, this sumptuous electronic torch song was still uniquely New Order. It remains a thing of beauty among the best New Order songs, despite Bernard Sumner’s mood-killing kiss-off line: “You’ve caught me at a bad time, so why don’t you piss off?”

4. True Faith (1987)

New Order didn’t release a new studio album in 1987, but their profile continued to rise thanks to the release of the multi-platinum-selling singles collection, Substance, which collated 12 of the group’s most groundbreaking 12” singles up to that point. That collection also featured an all-new single, True Faith, which went Top 5 in the UK and gave the band their first US Top 40 success. The timing didn’t hurt but, with hindsight, True Faith would surely have succeeded on its own merits, as it is one of New Order’s most sublime electro-pop anthems and remains a staple of their live set. Its longevity has since been assured through a series of remixes (including one by influential New Jersey DJ/producer Shep Pettibone) and a wonderfully trippy, MTV-friendly video.

3: Age Of Consent (1983)

Perhaps more than any other New Order song, Power, Corruption & Lies’ seminal opening cut, Age Of Consent, demonstrated that the band were on the road to recovery following Ian Curtis’ death. Kicked off by Peter Hook’s jubilant bassline and Stephen Morris’ busy drumming, this gloriously angular, guitar-based anthem was muscular, confident and tangibly upbeat, and it showed New Order had learnt how to embrace pop music at its most joyful and heady without sacrificing a shred of credibility.

2: Ceremony (1980)

Effectively the bridge between Joy Division, Ceremony (and its sombre flipside, In A Lonely Place), were both written during Joy Division’s last days, with the band even performing Ceremony at their last gig, in Birmingham, on 2 May 1980. After Curtis’ death, Sumner, Hook and Morris ditched Joy Division’s catalogue and started afresh, though they kept Ceremony and In A Lonely Place, which they recorded as New Order’s debut single in the autumn of 1980. Built around Hook’s insistent basslines and Sumner’s chiming guitars, Ceremony struck a cautious note of optimism and, as Morris said in his book, Record Play Pause, “In my opinion, it had ‘hit single’ pressed through it like Blackpool rock.” A UK Top 40 success on release, it remains one of the best New Order songs and frequently graces their live set to this day.

1: Temptation (1982)

It wasn’t as revolutionary a single as its successor, Blue Monday, but the band’s third single, Temptation, stakes a credible claim as New Order’s most important release, and tops our list of the best New Order songs. Though they’d already started integrating sequencers into their sound on Everything’s Gone Green, Temptation became not only the band’s first self-produced single, but also a significant step forward in their quest to fuse their trademark post-punk melancholia with the brightness of electronic pop. The first tangible signifier of the greatness New Order would shortly attain, Temptation also represented the point where Bernard Sumner gained the confidence to sing in his own style. Neither he – nor the band – have looked back since.

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