New Order’s second album, Power, Corruption & Lies, is arguably the most pivotal release in their entire canon. A major advance on their dour debut album, Movement, it found the group seamlessly integrating electronica and the cutting-edge dancefloor sounds of the day into their trademark, guitar-driven post-punk sound. As Stephen Morris told the NME, the record marked the point when the group “stopped being Joy Division and found a new direction through the means of technology and dance music”.
“It’s still having an impact”
Power, Corruption & Lies was first released on 2 May 1983, three years after Joy Division’s lead singer and driving force, Ian Curtis, committed suicide. Leaving aside the personal tragedy involved, Curtis’ death also terminated Joy Division’s career, and while his bandmates continued as New Order (bolstering their sound shortly afterwards with the addition of keyboardist Gillian Gilbert), it took them a long time to step out of their old group’s shadow.
Still very much in the vein of Joy Division, New Order’s 1981 debut, Movement, scraped into the UK Top 30, but its recording was fraught with difficulties. The band remained unsure of their future direction, while producer Martin Hannett made it clear he felt their genius had died with Ian Curtis.
“We had such a tough time making Movement, emotionally, because of Martin,” Peter Hook told Record Collector in 2020. “He was grieving and getting heavily into drugs. He’d lock himself in a room with a gram of coke and say, ‘If I hear anything I like, I’ll come out’ – and not come out! It was such a kick in the balls. After Movement we never gave him another chance.”
Happily, New Order discovered their new musical direction when they created a hybrid sound of their own. To achieve this, they began mixing their standard rock instrumentation with sequencers, exploring the new technology that became available during the early 80s.
“We wanted to move it along in our own way”
Bridging the gap between Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies, the Manchester quartet released three fantastic standalone singles which signalled where they were heading – and still sit among the best New Order songs The first, Everything’s Gone Green, found them toying with sequencers for the first time, while its euphoric follow-up, Temptation, blueprinted the happy-sad, synth-infused pop that would soon become New Order’s trademark. Released just prior to Power, Corruption & Lies, Blue Monday cracked the UK Top 10 and went on to become the best-selling 12” single of all time.