New Order

Back in the days when New Order was rising out of the ashes of Joy Division, dark and depressing subject matter in music was still absent enough in mainstream pop music that anyone addressing it in his music stood apart from the crowd. Of course, nowadays everyone's whining about how tough life can be, so it takes more than just a melancholy synth line to present a real alternative to modern music's predominant malaise. So while such trademarks of the New Order sound--like Peter Hook's plaintive bass rolls and Bernard Sumner's shaky tenor--remain in place for Get Ready, the songs themselves mark a determinedly, almost defiantly upbeat stance. Seven years after their last recorded LP, the members of New Order apparently want to remind the world that not only are they alive, but they love their lives, and they do so very convincingly as well.

Not that lyrics have ever been New Order's strong suit--otherwise, it would be hard to take an album that ends with "I want to live/Till I die/I want to live/To get high" very seriously. What buoys the album is the group's straight-ahead focus on an aggressive, rock-oriented sound. Portions of "Vicious Streak" recall the somber, synth-led dance tracks of yesteryear, but Get Ready's sound is best represented by the single "Crystal," which indicates that New Order has learned as much from groups like Orgy and Smashing Pumpkins as those groups apparently learned from New Order. Not surprisingly, Billy Corgan steps in to sing on "Turn My Way" and sounds not the least bit out of place.

This doesn't stop New Order from going a little overboard, particularly on the overwrought "Rock the Shack." But it also shows that 20 years later the group is still finding new facets in its sound to explore. With Get Ready, New Order makes it clear it has a lot to live for.

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Justin Hampton