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‘Waiting For The Sirens’ Call’: Inside New Order’s Beguiling Eighth Album
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In Depth

‘Waiting For The Sirens’ Call’: Inside New Order’s Beguiling Eighth Album

Overcoming haunted studios and internal tensions, New Order remained steadfast innovators on ‘Waiting For The Sirens’ Call’.


Realising their eighth studio album, Waiting For The Sirens’ Call, was something of a bittersweet experience for New Order. Taken at face value, the record was an unqualified success, as it shot to No.5 following its release, and yielded two classic singles. Yet its performance was overshadowed by the departure of bassist and co-founder Peter Hook in 2007.

Listen to ‘Waiting For The Siren’s Call’ here.

“We suddenly began getting hailed as pioneers!”

It’s ironic that this should have happened at that particular moment, for during this same period, the early-to-mid-2000s, New Order’s profile was arguably at its highest. They received NME’s coveted Godlike Genius award just as Waiting For The Sirens’ Call was set for release, and they were one of the coolest names new bands could drop around this time.

“I discovered hip young bands who had been inspired by New Order,” Stephen Morris wrote in his memoir Fast Forward. “People like Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem were mixing electronica and guitars in the same way we had been doing years before. They were pissing about with drum machines and analogue synths like we had. We suddenly began getting hailed as pioneers!”

As they worked on the follow-up to 2001’s Get Ready, New Order began collaborating on new songs in a way they’d not enjoyed since their early days as Joy Division. Initial writing sessions at Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert’s farm in rural Cheshire produced a glut of promising material, with the band’s newest member, Phil Cunningham, proving pivotal.

“We became unusually prolific and amassed a large quantity of ideas”

“The ideas that became the basis for Waiting For The Sirens’ Call were the first we’d written with Phil, and the process was very productive,” Morris later recalled. “Although Phil had ended up taking Gillian’s place on the keyboards at gigs, I honestly think synthesising was something he was never particularly relaxed about. The guitar was Phil’s main instrument, and he had no shortage of ideas for songs. We became unusually prolific and amassed a large quantity of mainly guitar-based ideas.”

With the basis of around 20 new songs to play with, New Order had enough material for almost two albums – and, indeed, eight of the tracks later surfaced on 2013’s Lost Sirens. They prioritised the tracks for Waiting For The Sirens’ Call, however, and these slowly came together during sessions at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios and actress Jane Seymour’s Tudor-era manor house, St Catherine’s Court, outside Bath. The latter location was supposedly haunted, and New Order soaked up the curious atmosphere while they were in residence.

“My room was reputed to be the most haunted, where an illegitimate offspring had reputedly been roasted on the ancient fireplace,” Stephen Morris wrote in Fast Forward. “But, despite the 15th Century baby’s crib that occasionally rocked by itself, the spirits didn’t trouble me much. The scratching coming from behind the oak-panelled walls was probably just rats, I speculated hopefully.”

Ghosts, though, weren’t the only outside presence communing with New Order during the sessions. The band also found their record label’s suggestion that they work with a number of hot-shot producers to be something of a mixed blessing.

“There were a lot of cooks and a lot of broth”

“At different times, on Sirens, we worked with Stephen Street, Jim Spencer, John Leckie, Tore Johannsson, Mac Quayle, Stuart Price and [Get Ready producer] Steve Osborne, though Stephen Street did the bulk of it,” Morris reflected “There were a lot of cooks and a lot of broth, so things got spilt at times.”

Nonetheless, one memorable collaboration emerged in the shape of the blissful, shimmering disco-pop of Jetstream: a UK Top 30 hit, for which the band were joined by guest vocalist Ana Matronic, of New York City disco revivalists Scissor Sisters. Stylistically, though, Jetstream wasn’t representative of Waiting For The Sirens’ Call, which mostly continued in the direction suggested by New Order’s previous release, Get Ready. This meant that bracing blasts of guitar-based angst with bitters such as Who’s Joe, Hey Now What You Doing and the hard-edged, Stooges-esque Working Overtime were primarily the order of the day.

Perhaps more pertinently, the record also included two vintage, guitar-driven classics, both of which were released as singles and received fulsome praise from both the band and press alike.

“New Order outdo themselves”

“Bernard [Sumner, singer] has said Waiting For The Sirens’ Call is his favourite New Order song ever, and it is a lovely song,” Peter Hook wrote in his memoir Substance. “And it’s got a great bass riff, too – thank you god of riffs!”

“Krafty is such a strong pop song,” The Guardian’s Alex Petridis wrote in his review of Waiting For The Sirens’ Call. “And the title track is perfection itself: softly pulsing electronics, an improbably simple and beautiful melody and a bassline that wraps itself around the vocals in a way no other band would think of doing. That one moment suggests a teenager, drawn to New Order for the first time by their current influence, might understand what all the fuss is about.”

With all this positivity flying around, it’s a shame that the album became the last one the group would record with Peter Hook. Revisiting this time in Fast Forward, Stephen Morris noted diplomatically that “pointless, petty disputes always arise in bands”, but also admitted that the situation “was beyond the usual”.

“Virtually every song is great”

Nonetheless, the band got the record over the line. The effort was worth it, too: released on 28 March 2005, Waiting For The Sirens’ Call quickly established itself as yet another essential New Order record whose highlights could stand among the best New Order songs. Yielding a silver disc for the trailblazing Manchester band, it still displays all the hallmarks of a long-term keeper.

“On Waiting For The Sirens’ Call, New Order outdo themselves with the sleek pop uplift of Krafty, the moody shimmer of Turn and the towering title track,” Rolling Stone wrote in response to the album’s initial release. “Virtually every song is great, so what more could a fan ask for?”

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