One of New Order’s greatest, and one of the greatest euro/alt/dance tunes of all time; sleeved in one of Peter Saville’s most sublime designs, and partnered with an equally wonderful B-side that so nearly became the prime offering. To this day True Faith + 1963 remains New Order’s finest single release, and it was the perfect rounding out of the Substance compilation; the latter of which – other than Singles – is the band’s definitive (and appropriate form of) compilation. Watch the skies for Substance 2 – its coming, but I digress…
Cath Carroll put it beautifully in the Palatine box booklet: “And ask not why this extravagant patch of pure blue, played first thing in the morning, can make you feel like… like Thatcher never happened. Here Stephen Hague introduced New Order to themselves all over again.” Sonically, True Faith is a leap forward from the Brotherhood recordings and I think Cath was right on the money because from this point forward New Order’s studio sound is richer and more spacious; although I have no doubt that advances in technology, more experience, new gear, new influences, and new ideas have something to do with it, not just the introduction of a producer – albeit a good one. I still maintain that New Order are at their best when self-producing, but True Faith (and 1963) is the exception. Sure it’s a pop song, but what a pop song – particularly when you glance around at its chart competition from 1987. In that year True Faith was a shining light and many grabbed it with both hands, and it’s no surprise that it was True Faith (and Substance) that finally cracked the charts across both sides of the Atlantic.
It’s such a wonderful song. From Bernard’s exuberant lyrics – on feeling extraordinary, in motion, and a sense of liberty – to the huge snare sound pile-driving Morris & Hague’s drum patterns, the interplay between Hook’s excellent bass performance and the bass keyboard sequences, the glassy arpeggiations, Gillians’s melodic synth chimes, and more; all topped off with classic guitar work from Sumner. Being of the discographer disposition I have a tendency towards music lists, and there is a special one locked away in my grey matter that notes great moments in pop music; and by that I mean actual moments in a song. #1 on that list has always been the high-octave synth solo at the end of Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes. #2 is in True Faith: after the final verse, with Hooky maintaining his rolling bass for a couple of dramatic seconds before a massive chord change heralds the song’s swirling outro. Gorgeous. At this moment on the Philippe Decouflé video clip there’s a flaming explosion followed by Morris holding court over a pulsating crowd, and Sumner breathes steam out of his nostrils… so I’m not alone in this perception.
True Faith was very well represented in 1987 by various extended versions, dubs and edits; the best of which IMHO is Shep Pettibone’s True Dub (aka True Faith [Alternate Faith Dub]) which draws out, extends & emphasises the sequences from the original to nearly 11 minutes of joy. The middle section of the remix in particular shines a spotlight (or more specifically “morn-morn-morn-morn-morn-morn morning sun“) on the crisp and beautiful arpeggiating synths. True Dub achieves what John Robie had set out to do with Dubvulture, but rather than being driven off a cliff, Pettibone’s bus offers a blissful ride.
Phase 2 in True Faith’s life was its re-release as a single in 1994 via London Records to accompany the (debatably titled) Best Of New Order release. True Faith-94 is a tweak of the ’87 version with some levels and effects shifted slightly to make it sound a little ‘tighter’, although I’m not sure it offered much – if any – particular improvement on the original. The Perfecto mixes however offered something new, and unlike many of the other London-period remixes which suffered from severe pointlessness, Oakenfold and Osbourne remained true to the source whilst adding value; with new drum, bass and glassy synth sounds, excellent glitchy patterns and modified sequences. To this day the band uses the Perfecto version at the heart of their live performances of TF. Noteworthy also is the Trannies With Attitude (aka TWA) Grim Up North mix on the ’94 12″ B-side; for its stripped-back patterns and quality gospel-like vocal additions. I like how the label made room for an inclusion from a lesser known remix crew.
Fast forward to 2001 and another phase of remixes emerges – curiously around the time of Get Ready – but only on a 2×12″ release via the band’s US label Qwest. Richard Morel presumptuously adds his own vocal overdubs to his completely rebuilt ‘Extra Dub’ which focuses on a new sugary drum pattern, bleeps, Sumner samples (“again and again I’ve taken too much…” [repeat]), and synth flourishes. His additional ‘Pink Noise Club’ and ‘Calling Shifty Dub’ mixes are variations on that theme, but overall they lose colour after the 2nd or 3rd outing. Morel’s later work on the Krafty and Guilt Is A Useless Emotion remixes fare better. Philip Steir’s Dub and Re-Order mixes start out OK – revolving around the main string chords and bass progression from the original – before careening off into their own worlds of glitchy drum & bass; occasionally coming back on target to something that sounds like True Faith. That these mixes were only issued in promo form is probably justified.
There are a couple of TF remix outliers as well: the King Roc mix from 2006 which was included on the True Faith / Regret disc from the impressive set of 12″ re-releases issued by New State Recordings that year. It’s probably my favourite remix since 1987, with some innovative dubstep-ish programming. It has a depth and range that the 2001 and 1994 mixes lack, and emphasises structural variation rather than looping ad-nauseum. Then there’s the Eschreamer Dub by Tall Paul from 2009, which bizarrely found its way onto the problematic Brotherhood remaster bonus CD. It’s horrible – a nasty italodisco nightmare, complete with fake crowd noise. On it’s inclusion I turn to Paddy Considine’s Gretton from 24 Hour Party People: “You’ve dropped a bollock, haven’t you?”
When all is said and done, nothing compares to the original as released on the Factory 12″ and Substance. It’s perfect; and like Temptation, True Faith is a shining example of all that is superb about New Order.