Thieves Like Us

Confusion < Thieves Like Us > Lonesome Tonight

The greatest quality of New Order’s music is melody; whether its expressed in beautiful string-laden synths, Hooky’s bass, the vocals, or even melodica, New Order’s music affects deeply because of melody; and Thieves Like Us drips like honey with many gorgeous melodies.

Although co-written with Arthur Baker during the Confusion sessions, ‘Thieves was recorded later at Britannia Row and (importantly) produced by New Order. Distinctively post-PC&L, the song has a warmer bass sound and is one of New Order’s most synth-laden tracks; full of pads, motifs, and those melodic riffs. Backed with the wonderful Lonesome Tonight its another of those remarkable (gorgeously packaged) inter-album singles that punctuates New Order’s first 5 years, and highlights just how creatively on fire they were.

Thieves Like Us is a beautiful song; one of New Order’s great love songs – but in that very Sumneresque approach where love is both light and dark. Accordingly, love:

  • Belongs to us / everyone but us / everyone of us
  • Dies so quickly… and when it dies, it dies for good
  • Grows so slowly
  • Is the only thing worth living for
  • Is found in the East and the West
  • When its at home its the best
  • Is the cure for every evil
  • Is the air that supports the eagle
  • Is so uncool
  • Has become unmentionable
  • Cuts your life like a broken knife

Thanks Bernard. This wasn’t helping teenagers in 1984 deal with matters of the heart… which made it a perfect choice for the song’s inclusion on the soundtrack to one of the great teen angst movies of all time Pretty in Pink; albeit using the gorgeous instrumental version of the track.

So many highlights to speak of: like how the spartan bass/snare intro spills into reverbed high-hats, the multiple layers of synth chords creating atmosphere, Hooky’s particularly deep & rumbling bass which he later slides down the fret to great effect, Sumner stretching with conviction his upper range to its fragile limit, and the many synth and bass melodies mentioned. Love the slow-down ending too.

I recently had the great pleasure of experiencing Thieves Like Us performed live for the first time since 1988, at the Sydney Opera House with the band performing in conjunction with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Still potent, still beautiful, and still feeling the love.

Rating: xxxxi

Available on: Substance

5 thoughts on “Thieves Like Us

  1. Always enjoyed the gradual instrumental build up before the vocals kick in. Superb. Also the white sleeved 12″ record, coupled with the dark sleeved Murder 12″. What is not to like? Nice review!


  2. Always a personal favorite. Although I love the original version, I find myself listening to the instrumental much more these days.
    It must have been wonderful seeing them with an orchestra. Have you heard of any decent quality tapes circulating?


  3. Danced on the first floor balcony like a fool when they played this at the SOH…as I promised I would to my despairing wife. Sublime track and the (slightly) remixed instrumental on the flip of Shellshock is the bees knees

    Liked by 1 person

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