Power Corruption & Lies is probably my favourite album. Its a definitive artistic achievement on so many levels; from the appropriated Fantin-Latour sleeve which verges on the anonymous, to Saville’s colour language and decoder, to the gorgeous soundscapes that lie within. It’s beautifully produced by the band, and is a landmark album in their development. Absolute class.
…and its opener Age of Consent is monumental.
Like other songs on the album it distinguishes itself with its richness and depth; eschewing (for the time being) sequencers, drum machines and electronic noise for what is essentially a rock track with stunning interplay between bass and lead guitar, but where the band rediscovers the drama and beauty of synth strings that had largely lain idle since Closer and Atmosphere.
The music – not unlike Ceremony – rises and falls in waves, propelled powerfully by Hooky’s driving bass line and Morris on frenetic but precise drums, and a broad wash of low octave synth; the beauty lying in Gillian’s gorgeous strings and Bernard’s vocals. Sumner’s anguished lyrics of relationship loss and his at-full-stretch vocal performance, in combination with Age of Consent’s tour de force of leftfield rock, layers of strings, atmospheres and beautiful melodies, mark this song as one of those that leaves you shivering in awe. New Order can combine beauty and power like no others.
The song quietens as Bernard’s despairing cries of ‘I’ve lost you, I’ve lost you’ fade into his fragile ‘oohs’; like a lullaby at the end of the line. Then, just as the song reaches its most peaceful point, its crescendo rises up like a juggernaut, with strings in full force and Bernard thrashing out percussive guitar chops. Hurt begetting anger & regret amidst great beauty; which Joy Division understood very well, but New Order – and this is a big call – does even better.
Age of Consent set the tone for this truly wonderful album, and – remarkably – the best was yet to come.
Available on: Power Corruption & Lies