New Order were a consistent, high quality band during the eighties with tracks such as ‘Blue Monday’, ‘Temptation’ and ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’, before they began to break up and enjoy other projects; some more successful than others. It wasn’t until 1993 when they made their first surprising return as New Order, with the post-Factory Republic album. This album showed the world a more pure pop side to the band, hosting a stack of radio-friendly single releases. It was also reminiscent of their offshoot acts, especially Bernard Sumner’s Electronic, and Peter Hook’s Revenge. Some see this as the beginning of the end of the band as an ensemble prone to crossover, edgy floor-fillers of near genius.
It would be another eight years before they returned, recharged and with their best material since 1989′s Technique. The crunch and lust of comeback single ‘Crystal’ was a track worthy of New Order at their best. The album, Get Ready, soon followed and it was a bit of a gem; more use of guitars, perfect for performing live. Then silence for another few years, amid more of the usual rumour of fall-outs and talk along the lines of “New Order finished!”. And so this is where the songs featured on Lost Sirens come in.
These are tracks put down during the sessions for New Order’s last album, 2005′s Waiting For the Siren’s Call which– depending on your opinion– was either phoned-in New Order, lacking in magic, or genuinely enjoyable radio-friendly songs of the type the band do effortlessly well (“isn’t that New Order-by-numbers?”– confused ed). It is very likely, then, that Lost Sirens will allow for the same sort of mixed reaction. Some of what is on here could easily slot into Waiting For the Sirens Call no question, if not the Republic album. It does seem, though, that naming it Lost Sirens is allowing for more mystery than is needed; it’s not like the tracks featured here were years lost before being suddenly discovered in someone’s attic. (Well, they may have been but seeing as I haven’t heard this story I shall continue to assume otherwise).
Bernard Summer has come up with some dodgy lyrics in his time but the perfectly melodic– and kind of sad– ‘Californian Grass’ does feature one of his better ones: “My hand it shakes / my pulse is high / my complications I can’t describe / ‘cos your cold heart will break some day / so don’t you throw this chance away”. Another one I liked was ‘Shake It Up’. This little dollop of alt.disco-pop dynamite had me dancing in my bedroom (which is always a good sign, believe me).
Lost Sirens has some moments that justifies release (providing one does not make the churlish mistake of expecting classic New Order), that kind of sum up where the band has been during the last twenty-odd years. And though some may disagree, the place in question has not been at all bad. Of course they are back and touring again– minus Peter Hook who seems to have left the band one last time– yet the strange world of a band who can be difficult yet popular at the same time still continues. Somehow.