New Order is one of the most influential British groups of the past 40 years. Formed out of the ashes of the cultural behemoth that was Joy Division, following lead singer Ian Curtis’s tragic suicide in May 1980, New Order would create a piece of history that was their own. Now though, it would be former Joy Division guitarist Bernard Sumner who would take up the gauntlet of being the group’s frontman. In addition to drummer Stephen Morris and bassist Peter Hook, in October 1980, Morris’ girlfriend Gillian Gilbert was invited into the fold to assume the role of keyboardist.
The new group took the name ‘New Order’, and like with ‘Joy Division’, the band attested and refuted any links drawn between them and National Socialism. The Manchester-based outfit’s first single was 1981’s ‘Ceremony’, and the single, along with its B-side ‘In a Lonely Place’, were written in the weeks before Curtis’s suicide. At this point, which the band viewed as a massive low as they were recovering from the tragic death of their friend, the music they were creating was very similar to that of Joy Division’s with a heavy dark and melodic overtone. However, due to Gilbert‘s inclusion, they gradually started to bring the synthesiser to the forefront of their work.
After the release of their first album, Movement, in 1981, the band visited New York, and this trip was to have a defining impact on them. It was here that they were introduced to post-disco, freestyle and electro. Additionally, still recovering from the fall out of Curtis’ passing, collectively, they had taken to listening to Italian Disco to cheer themselves up. At this time, Morris had also started to teach himself drum programming. The culmination of these elements would be game-changing for the band and culture.
Moving forward, they would release the singles ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ and ‘Temptation’, tracks that would mark the start of their decades-long romance with dance music. However, on New Order’s next album, Power, Corruption and Lies, released in 1983, would be where the band truly began their meteoric rise. Featuring classics such as ‘Age of Consent’ and ‘Leave Me Alone’, the album was a departure from Joy Division’s sound.
However, the most important part of their career had come two months prior to the release of their second album. The four-on-the-floor mega-hit ‘Blue Monday‘ became the best-selling 12″ record of all time, and in doing so, the band would forever change the face of music and culture.
From there, the band would then go from strength to strength, with their last album, Music Complete, released in 2015. Join us then as we list New Order’s ten greatest albums.
New Order’s albums ranked from worst to best:
10. Music Complete (2015)
The tenth studio album by the Manchester icons, and the tenth on our list, is their most novel offering. The album presented itself as a series of firsts. It was the first to feature Gillian Gilbert after a decade-long hiatus, and it was the first to feature new bassist Tom Chapman, who had replaced the outgoing Peter Hook, who had quit over longstanding personal and creative differences.
The album is a lot more electronically focused than its two predecessors and also features guest vocals from Elly Jackson of La Roux, Brandon Flowers and Iggy Pop. Music Complete spawned the singles ‘Restless’, ‘Tutti Frutti’, ‘Singularity’ and ‘People on the High Line’. It was mainly promoted online and through the band’s appearance at Lollapalooza Chile.
9. Lost Sirens (2013)
The ninth album by New Order, Lost Sirens, was the last to feature bassist Peter Hook. Weirdly, at this point, Hook had left the band almost six years prior to its release in 2007. The tracks on the album were recorded as part of the sessions for 2005’s Waiting for the Siren’s Call.
In a Brazilian interview promoting the São Paulo appearance, Gilbert acknowledged the issues with outgoing member Hook. The keyboardist accepted there was “a lot going on behind the scenes on the copyright”, which ultimately delayed the album’s release. Lost Sirens was released to generally favourable reviews. Even The Independent’s Andy Gill claimed that New Order’s ninth album “actually bests its parent album (Waiting for the Sirens’ Call)“.
8. Waiting for the Siren’s Call (2005)
The eighth offering from New Order, 2005’s Waiting for the Siren’s Call was the first album not to feature keyboardist Gilbert. She had taken a break from the band in 2001 to look after her and Morris’s children. The album was recorded at Real World Studios in Wiltshire, England and cost a whopping £700,000 to make. Interestingly, this is the first and only New Order album to feature a title track. This also started their use of song titles which come from song lyrics, a mode the band rarely employed prior to their 2001 album Get Ready.
The Japanese release also includes alternate versions of the lead single ‘Krafty’, including one sung in Japanese. This was the first time frontman Bernard Sumner had performed in a language other than English. The translation was done by Masafumi Gotō of the rock band Asian Kung-Fu Generation. The album was released to generally favourable reviews.
7. Get Ready (2001)
Get Ready was the band’s first album in eight years come to its release in August 2001. It was also the last to feature their classic line-up. The album also carried a melancholic feel, as it was dedicated to Joy Division and New Order’s late manager Rob Gretton, who died in 1999. Peter Hook stated that the album’s title “could mean anything or nothing. I thought it was just nice; New Order, Get Ready; ’cause we are, we’re getting ready for the next phase of our musical lives both physically and mentally, so it’s quite a simple thing but it’s very pertinent.”
The cover art was directed by long-time collaborator Peter Saville and designed by Howard Wakefield, the pair of whom had worked on New Order and Joy Division albums in the past. The model is German actress Nicolette Krebitz. The album spawned the singles ‘Crystal’, ’60 Miles an Hour’ and ‘Someone Like You’. It was well received by critics and the public, and Robert Christgau labelled it the band’s best album “in 15 years”.
Get Ready also featured guest vocals from Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie on (‘Rock the Shack’) and Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan on (‘Turn My Way’).
6. Republic (1993)
New Order’s sixth studio album, Republic, was the band’s first album since its long-time label Factory Records in 1992. It became the band’s second consecutive album to top the UK Albums chart and was even nominated for the 1993 Mercury Music Prize. The lead single, the classic ‘Regret’ became their last top-five entry on the UK Singles Chart. The band embarked on their extensive hiatus after a show at Reading Festival.
The album was hotly anticipated and gained large plaudits. The other singles were ‘Ruined in a Day’, ‘World (The Price of Love) and ‘Spooky’.
5. Brotherhood (1986)
The band’s fourth album was released on 29th September 1986. It contains their early trademark sound of a post-punk and electronic fusion. However, the two styles are for the most part divided between the two sides. Brotherhood spawned only two singles, ‘State of the Nation’ and ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’. The latter was their breakthrough hit in the US and Australia.
The split of styles over the two sides was intentional. Morris stated that the album “was kind of done in a schizophrenic mood that we were trying to do one side synthesisers and one side guitars”. Retrospectively, he feels it “didn’t quite work”.
In 1987, the drummer commented on the “mad ending” to the finisher ‘Every Little Counts’. The ending sounds like a record playing skipping the groove, taking cues from the ending to the Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life’. Morris said: “What we should have done is make the tape version sound like the tape getting chewed up. The CD could have the sticking sound.”
4. Low-Life (1985)
New Order’s third album, Low-Life, is considered to be a turning point in the band’s career. Frequently discussed as one of their most vital works, it displays their sonic transformation from post-punks to the titanic dance-rockers we know today. The album features an increased role for synthesisers and samplers but marries them effectively with the band’s already established guitar sound. Singles ‘The Perfect Kiss’ and ‘Sub-Culture’ are bonafide dancefloor smashers.
Appropriately, the album amassed much love from commercially and critically. Richard Cromelin of the Los Angeles Times hailed its “varied menu of soul-pop, techno-rock, delicate instrumental moods, and driving, clattering percussion offers adventure in texture at every turn.”
3. Movement (1981)
New Order’s debut album was not an instant success but has retrospectively gained support. It marked a tragic period for the surviving Joy Division trio, who found themselves at a personal and sonic crossroads. With the exceptions of ‘Ceremony’ and ‘In a Lonely Place’, which had been played at the final stages of Joy Division, the rest of the album was original.
The introduction of Gilbert in 1980 changed everything. It led the band to write the rest of the album, and it lightened the burden on Sumner. New Order’s frontman had found it impossible to play guitar, keyboards and sing. This also enabled the band to pursue the electronic approach that would define their career in the not too distant future. The original New Order songs for Movement were written and recorded over a seven-month period.
Movement has its place. It is an album marking a band in transit. References to the band’s late friend appear on ‘ICB’ and ‘The Him’. The former was long rumoured to an acronym for ‘Ian Curtis Buried’, which Hook confirmed in 2013. Movement is also critical as it delineated a sound that would become highly influential and widespread as the ’80s wore on.
2. Technique (1989)
One of New Order’s best-loved, Technique, captures them at their absolute dance-rock best. Partially recorded in Ibiza, it incorporates Balearic beat and acid house, making it a party classic. Given the time, the album was heavily influenced by the nascent acid house scene, and by Sumner’s experiences at London’s weekly dance event Shoom.
Technique was to be the Manchester group’s final studio album released by Factory Records. However, it was not their last piece of work to do so, that was the 1990 smash hit ‘World in Motion’. Featuring the singles ‘Fine Time’, ‘Round and Round’ and ‘Run 2’, Technique is an absolute masterclass.
1. Power, Corruption and Lies (1983)
You guessed it…undoubtedly New Order’s most outstanding work. The band’s second album was met with universal acclaim upon release. It remains a favourite today. Often regarded as one of the greatest albums of the ’80s, it features the classic tracks ‘Age of Consent’, ‘Leave Me Alone’ and ‘The Village’. The American version even included their magnum opus, ‘Blue Monday’.
This was the album that marked the actual start of the band we know as New Order. It all stemmed from this, the most significant moment in their career.