This tale of a soldier returning home from Vietnam in spirit to find his wife holding a killed-in-action telegram* is a bleak opener to New Order’s 3rd album; an album of highs and (relative) lows. In fact Love Vigilantes is one of only a small handful of Bernard Sumner songs written as a straight story arc instead of an abstract insight into emotions and observations, and to this end the song offers up a brand new facet to New Order’s body of work; dare we call it country…? In fact they freely admit it. As I write this my thoughts have wandered into Bob’s Country Bunker, with the Blues Brothers grudgingly playing Rawhide. Make of that what you will.
Rarely liking either country or western, nor story-type songs, I have to say that Love Vigilantes is one of the Low Life tracks that I typically pass over. I know many love it# and variety is good, but with respect to the album play me This Time Of Night or The Perfect Kiss any time. Love Vigilantes just feels a little overcooked in places; perhaps a verse/chorus too long, the percussion lacking variation, etc. Niggles rather than issues, but there you go… personal preference… Conversely the chunky guitar breakdown that closes the track is great, there are some nice melodies, and Bernard does deliver his vocals with conviction and feeling. The ‘I want to see my family, my wife and child waiting for me’ chorus in particular is nicely pitched.
The pure rock/country nature of Love Vigilantes is quite a detour from the punk / indie rock / leftfield dance / proto-techno evolution to-date, and it was a vein to be mined again (perhaps more effectively) on Brotherhood and later on Get Ready. The genre may have its detractors (myself included), but if it helps the band to scratch an itch^ and then get on again with the business of writing the world’s best epic alternative/dance music then more power to them. Woe betide them however if they ever even think of picking up a harmonica, although the Melodica does sound dangerously close in this one!
By the way… in my opinion Low Life – in its original tracing-paper LP sleeve – is the most exquisitely packaged album of all time and Peter Saville’s finest hour. An absolute masterpiece of monochrome, photography, typography and design. Iconic.
* Another interpretation is that the soldier isn’t dead and is on leave & returning home to his distraught wife who’s holding an erroneous telegram.
# I’d welcome commentary if you feel otherwise about Love Vigilantes. Tell me why!
^ Perhaps Bernard’s well documented love of the ‘Fistful of Dollars’ soundtrack can better influence any future flirtation with Western 😉
Available on: Low Life