When Ian Curtis committed suicide on the eve of an American tour, it marked the end of Joy Division. Guitarist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook, and drummer Stephen Morris continued making music together as New Order. Sumner took over lead vocals and Morris’ girlfriend Gillian Gilbert joined on keyboards and guitar.
After an album of Joy Division-like gloom, New Oder started adding electronic sounds to their guitar music. Coupled with the band’s quirks and limitations – Hook’s high-pitched bass is the dominant instrument, Morris’ drumming is metronomic, while Sumner’s lyrics often feel like an afterthought – the results were magical. This list is dominated by the band’s 1980s output – they slowed up thereafter as relationships fractured and they dabbled in extra-curricular projects.
I’ve ranked New Order’s ten studio albums on this list. I haven’t included the compilation Substance 1987 – I wouldn’t usually consider compilations, but it does contain essential non-album material like ‘Temptation’, ‘Blue Monday’, and ‘True Faith’.
New Order Albums Ranked
#10 Lost Sirens
Some acclaimed albums have been created from outtakes – Radiohead’s Amnesiac is a famous example. It seems doubtful, however, that anyone was waiting breathlessly for an album of leftovers from Waiting for the Siren’s Call. It was released almost a decade after it was recorded, by which time Peter Hook had left New Order. The individual songs are fine, but taken as a whole Lost Sirens is an unremarkable collection of pop/rock songs.
Republic followed a temporary hiatus during which New Order’s members explored projects outside of the band – Bernard Sumner’s Electronic with Johnny Marr, Hook’s Monaco, and the rhythm section’s The Other Two. It was led by the fabulous single ‘Regret’, which stands as one of New Order’s best tunes and one of the best verse melodies in the popular music canon.. But the remainder of Republic is disappointingly slight, a flat return after New Order’s triumphant 1980s.
#8 Waiting for the Siren’s Call
Gilbert temporarily left New Order after Get Ready, and she was replaced by Phil Cunningham on the band’s eighth album. After the rock-oriented Get Ready, Siren’s Call bought some of New Order’s dance influences back – ‘Krafty’ is an impressive lead single. There’s worthwhile jangly pop like ‘Turn’ and ‘Waiting for the Siren’s Call’. There’s also some less dignified material – the breezy pop of ‘Jetstream’ is one of the band’s most embarrassing efforts.
#7 Get Ready
New Order broke up after Republic but reconvened in 1998 at the suggestion of manager Rob Gretton. Get Ready is New Order’s most uneven record – the strongest tracks are some of their best post-1980s work, like lead single ‘Crystal’, the moody ‘Vicious Streak’, and the acoustic ‘Run Wild’. But there’s also eminently skippable material like ‘Rock the Shack’ and the dopey lyrics of ‘Slow Jam’. Get Ready features prominent guest stars like Billy Corgan and Bobby Gillespie, making it feel less like a New Order album than usual.
#6 Music Complete
New Order’s most recent album to date is their most consistent of the 21st century. It’s their only record without Peter Hook – he’s replaced by Tom Chapman. It’s their first record as a five piece, as Gillian Gilbert returns to the group. Despite all the lineup alterations, the biggest change is the deepening of Sumner’s voice, shedding its boyish tones. The electronic/rock hybrids on ‘Singularity’ and ‘Tutti Fruitti’ recall their best work, while the sophisti-pop of ‘Superheated’, featuring Brandon Flowers, is a vibrant new direction.
Movement is more similar to Joy Division than New Order’s subsequent work. Sumner and Hook share lead vocals, and the gloomy post-punk recalls their previous band, along with Martin Hannett’s production. Even though the non-album single ‘Ceremony’ is New Order’s best song of the era, it’s still a solid album, a bridge between Joy Division and New Order. Peter Hook, always ready with a provocative quote, opines “It was good for the first two-and-a-half minutes, then it dipped.” Movement is perfectly serviceable, but it’s fortunate New Order reinvented themselves with the dance-pop of ‘Temptation’.
New Order demarcated their fourth studio album by its two vinyl sides – the first half dedicated to post-punk guitar rock and the second to dance tracks. The presence of the demo ‘Every Second Counts’ is a little distracting, but Brotherhood is nonetheless full of high quality material. ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ is the monster single, while CD editions also add the single ‘State of the Nation’. The dance side is more celebrated, but the rock side is also impressive – Sumner is tuneful and direct on tunes like ‘Weird-O-matik’ and ‘Broken Promise’.
New Order’s third album largely continues where Power, Corruption & Lies left off, showcasing their blend of gloomy post-punk and joyful dance-pop. Genre experiments like the country leanings of ‘Love Vigilantes’ and the brooding instrumental ‘Elegia’ balance out the dance tracks like ‘The Perfect Kiss’ and ‘Sub-Culture’. The CD edition comes with four different photographs – you can choose which member of New Order you want on the cover, although drummer Stephen Morris is the default option.
#2 Power, Corruption & Lies
New Order had started adding electronic elements to their music with successful singles like ‘Temptation’, and these are reflected on their second studio album. Power, Corruption & Lies captures New Order’s early prime – non-album singles from this time, like ‘Blue Monday’, ‘Temptation’, and ‘Thieves Like Us’, are among the band’s most celebrated. Even without these singles, Power, Corruption & Lies is still a terrific album with standout tracks like ‘Age of Consent’, ‘586’, and ‘Your Silent Face’.
The band recorded Technique on the island of Ibiza. Distracted by partying, they later finished the record at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio. It reflects the sun-kissed environment of Ibiza, but often juxtaposes joyful music with sombre lyrics that reflect Sumner’s recent divorce. Technique is often magical – the funky intensity of opener ‘Fine Time’, the glorious jangle of ‘All The Way’ and ‘Run’, and Hook’s excellent bassline on ‘Vanishing Point’. The gorgeous sweep of ‘Dream Attack’ is a fine cap on a wonderful decade for New Order.
What’s your favourite New Order album?