In some respects, it’s a miracle this record exists. Whilst New Order have never been the kind of band to really ever go overboard – despite the drug fuelled psychosis and financial haemorraging of epic proportions, they never ever came to blows. The worst they ever did was sulk and just not talk to each other for years.
In the timeline of New Orders career though, this, only their seventh studio album, is undoubtedly the band in the second half of their career. Though between the four members they boast a total of 28 albums under various guises, they are hardly prolific – New Order have released just two albums (and a bunch of remixes) since 1989. It seems as if inertia and underachieving solo projects are just too damn tempting. And so, to GetReady. Though GetReady for what?
The first thing is, nobody could dare call this innovative or cutting edge. Every previous New Order record started to break new ground, seemed to suggest a future, look forward. Sometime in 1994 though, it seemed the rest of the world overtook New Order. Listening to Blue Monday still sounds revelatory, some 18 years later. But Crystal? It’s a great song. But nobody could dare listen to it and think even for a second “hey, nobodys done that before!” the way that they might have done when Joy Divison gave punk an intellect with Transmission, or New Order invented indie-disco with Blue Monday, or made the only decent football record ever with World In Motion.
GetReady marks the first, slight fall from grace in the New Order catalogue. It’s a nostalgic sound, harkening back to the 1985-86 era of the band with big rock songs, and sparse, minimalist instrumentation. It’s closest relative is LowLife – a sleek, organic thing.
The cover is the first sign that something may be slightly askew in NewOrderLand – the elegant, mysterious suggestiveness of their other covers is obliterated by a prosaic portrait of an unkempt girl. No thermal images of statues, fake Bold packets, or fake floppy discs for this lot. It just feels – bland, drab, compared to the inventiveness of previous work.
Open up the CD and it feels roughly the same. Crystal is a wired, zippy thing. Fun to dance along and sing to, but hardly revolutionary. See, when New Order weren’t moving, they always moved me. But now they seem almost stuck in the same place – a bit of a one trick horse if you like. But what a trick.
Even the titles are so linear – every single one of them, excepting Slow Jam, has a title clearly heard in the song. For most New Order albums, the titles have nothing to do with the song. It’s all part of the charm. Just try and find a reference to the song in the titles to Technique for example.
60mph is next – and like, much of the album, it sounds like the bassist from also-rans Monaco, the singer from Electronic, and the drummer from The Other Two. Hardly inspiring on paper is it? In effect this is a rerun of every New Order solo album since 1990 onward, with added fizz. The lyrics are still awful cat on a mat/that’s got a hat/it sat like that/saw a rat/keyboard fill and wobbly bass nonsense, but there’s something, in the gut, that’s inherently thrilling about this record. Even though it’s the worst New Order album for 18 years, even a bad New Order album is still head and shoulders about most bands finest achievements.
And to be fair, full credit to them for trying – even though it sounds ever so slightly dated. There’s no shortage of energy here – and tracks like Close Range and Primitive Notion still provide an adrenalin rush that people half their age can only dream of producing. Are you listening, Travis?
There are some belters that are infused with the energy and power of New Order at their peak – that give me tingles. Turn My Way (with a suprisingly well-integrated appearance from Billy Corgan), Crystal, 60 Mph, Primitive Notion, Close Range would – whilst sounding hopelessly out of place in a club environment – show a thrilling understanding that most music is heard at home that days, and sound fabulous in your average living room.
But the album does have some shortfalls. Rock The Shack, with guests Primal Scream, is without doubt, an absolutely pitiful rewrite of Shoot Speed Kill Light from Prml’s XTRMNTR album – same speed, same bass, same guitar lines, and only new lyrics which seem to have been tossed at random from a rhyming dictionary. Run Wild – sounding oddly like She’s The One – is a hollow ballad. “Good Times Around The Corner” for a chorus? Somewhat odd for New Order that. Someone Like You is just fluff. Then again, the last record I heard that didn't have a single dodgy track was made in 1994.
It could’ve been worse. Right now, New Order could be slogging their guts out on package tours at Arenas up and down the UK with a truncated line-up performing four song sets on a cabaret circuit supporting other nobodies from the worst decade in history, as a part time holiday from their office jobs, dealless, hopeless, and desecrating any memories we may have had.
And so, overall. What is Get Ready? As I said before, that this CD exists is nothing short of a small miracle. That it, despite its shortfalls and the odd duff track, the lack of innovation (though New Order have, to be fair, done more than their fair share of groundbreaking work), the prosaic cover, dull titles and lazy lyrics, there is still something deep and vital locked into the grooves, something that excites both them, and gets my hair standing up when I listen to it.
Like most other New Order records, I suspect it’ll only show its true worth in a few months, when I suddenly realise that, cut from the time it was made, it becomes timeless. It sound like it could have been made both anytime, and at no time in history. Outside of history. Come to think of it, New Order have always done whatever the bloody hell they always wanted. And isn’t that why so many people love them?
8Mark Reed's Score