New Order certainly used the Salvation! soundtrack as an opportunity to get a couple of unused outtakes from ’84/’85 ‘finished’, and like so many other tracks written during the band’s Factory-era Skullcrusher had its first airing live as a work-in-progress, with lyrics that were impromptu at best. Gutsy!
Two particular things come to mind:
- When you look over New Order’s set lists during the ’80s, other than the occasional cover version, there is nothing played live that didn’t eventuate on a release somewhere. In that respect they are quite a lean band in that their archives hold few recordings that remain on the officially-unreleased ‘bench’*.
- Conversely there are few tracks released during the band’s Factory period that weren’t performed live at least once; with the make-up of a given set (beyond the programmed core) often being determined on a whim and involved more obscure or alpha-version tracks. Gretton’s influence would have been key to this. There is a shift in this modus operandi from the ’90s-on, where it’s less common to get a new track tested live before its released and there are numerous studio tracks that have never been played live. Perhaps it’s true to say that New Order used to be more experimental than they are now, but then that’s true of most bands with a lifespan. Its also equally fair to say that experimental does not necessarily equal good…
Seemingly on the band’s forward agenda during 1984 given that the new track had several live airings that year; each time with Bernard ad-libbing different (and extremely dubious) lyrics. Easily found on YouTube, the Studio 54 live performance from Barcelona is probably the best quality recording that has lyrics, but geez they’re dodgy: ‘You heard me when I called you fat… You said that I was just a twat…‘ etc. After that it goes downhill fast but the performance would have been a chuckle on the night. Words aside, the melody of the vocals work OK so it’s a shame the song wasn’t taken to its fullest conclusion.
As with Let’s Go, Skullcrusher was resurrected from the spares box in 1987 as part of the band’s numerous recordings for the Salvation! soundtrack, and as with Let’s Go it was offered up as an instrumental. It’s a frenetic piece revolving around a repeating Hooky riff, a simple tom and snare pattern, and several layers of trebly guitar; descending chords, Chic-like chugging, and a blistering squeal at the top end of the fretboard. Parts of the track remind me of the band’s Factory contemporaries Minny Pops and Section 25, and also hark back to some of Warsaw’s earliest punk works. I can see how they pulled the track out a few times when they just wanted to thrash about a bit.
For me Skullcrusher is simple, loud, and not something I would put on a playlist unless I felt the need to do some chainsawing.
* The only ones I can think of stem from their first 1980 demo recorded at Western Works, and maybe they won’t be the case much longer either.
Most recently available on: Salvation! (Original Soundtrack)