Vanishing Point

Mr Disco < Vanishing Point > Dream Attack

I can’t decide whether Vanishing Point is my favourite track on Technique. I reckon it might be, but Fine Time, Round & Round and Mr Disco are all completely sublime as well, so I think it depends on what day it is. In 1988/89 Fine Time would have been my preferred Friday floor filler; raw and in your face – heralding the weekend with mischief and bustle. You’re well into the weekend by Saturday night, and your senses are sharpened for some classy tunes – so bring on Round & Round’s silky brilliance or Mr Disco’s all-you-can-eat bliss. Your Sunday afternoon recovery needs clarity; so some unconfused beats & bass, beautiful melodies, and even a hint of ambient melancholy are required. Vanishing Point is a superb expression of all of these. All four tracks together on one album is simply remarkable, and hands-down Technique is New Order’s finest hour.

Bernard excels himself on Vanishing Point: “Grow up children – don’t you suffer, at the hands of one another“, and one of my favourite NO choruses of all time “My life ain’t no holiday, I’ve been through the point of no return. I’ve seen what a man can do; I’ve seen all the hate of a woman too“; all delivered in that middle/upper Bernard-range and mournful tempo, with a production-perfect amount of harmony, reverb and delay. VP also has another of Sumner’s reprise vocals – in this case the whistle downwind lyric; a form he applies on other tracks like Mr Disco and Regret, and a form unfortunately lost when tracks get edited for single release. It’s partly why New Order’s album versions are – almost without exception – definitive.

Musically, Vanishing Point is gorgeous. I love the programming of the main bass line; melodically bouncing around on the 1/8ths and 1/16ths before slipping down onto alternative keys, and then driving forward in a single line towards the vocals; all with Hooky adding much appreciated texture. The drums are less complex than Mr Disco; mainly variations on 4×4 bass drum, bass drum + snare, snare rolls, and clipped cymbals. Not complex, but perfect in its classic dance pattern simplicity. It’s the evocative synth melodies & atmospheres in Vanishing Point however, which make the track shimmer and glide. Without knowing the exact who-did-what in the studio, I sense Gillian’s graceful hand at work here; particularly the reverbed bells, piano, and deep background string chords. The instrumental break between 3:00 and 4:00 is simply beautiful; a stripped back groove – drums, synth bass, bells and sequencer – as Hooky enters with a thoughtful refrain, then the track pares down completely to an ambiance of (just) reverbed-bells, before the electro hi-hats lead us back – one last time – into a crowd-heaving full-on chorus, with Bernard reminding us again that he needs more holidays. Because, you know, Ibiza was exhausting…

I never had the chance to see VP played live, but I love the Big World Cafe performance: amidst the fog & lights Morris is Mr Cool on his Octapads, Sumner’s in his club whites, Hook’s causing permanent damage to his posture (out-of-tune bass notwithstanding), and Gillian with her understated elegance … and some bloke with an inflatable penguin in the crowd. Perfect.

The Instrumental Making Out Mix of VP was a lovely inclusion on the Round & Round CD single; paired as it was with Best & Marsh – another great electronic instrumental made for TV. Eschewing the vocals and emphatic dance mix of the original for additional melodies and an overall lighter feel, the Making Out Mix works really well as the soundtrack to its namesake TV production. Is it me or does the show punch above its weight having this as its theme?

Regardless, we can only guess at how successful Vanishing Point would have been as a single; surely better than Run (legal nonsense aside) – and would have given us an unbeatable same-album hat-trick of singles. Potential remixers at the time? Mark Moore, Brian Dougans (Stakker Humanoid), Graham Massey & Co, and Westbam come to mind, but – like Plastic from Music Complete – there’s nothing wrong with having a perfect dance track ‘only’ on the album and ‘only’ as originally produced by the band. It’s ‘only’ New Order, right?

Rating: xxxxx

Available on: Technique

11 thoughts on “Vanishing Point

  1. Thank you for this! One of my profound regrets in life is that I wasn’t a fan of NO while Technique was on tour. I don’t think I’ve heard any songs from that album in any of their subsequent concerts. I’m hoping Hooky will do it after his Substance/Substance tour is done, though it’ll of course be a lesser event. But wow, that Big World Cafe performance is great. And call me dumb, but I didn’t realize there are no guitars in Vanishing Point.

    I remember playing this song plenty when I DJed some back in college. It’s one of those rare dance tunes that’s also kinda sad, which is why it’s just so damn good!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review again Dennis ( I have no musical ability or know how but find your reviews fascinating) . One of New Order’s finest (then again, there are very few NO songs that don’t meet that criteria), if you will pardon the pun, the ‘Techniques’ displayed in the writing, production and execution of this track are sublime, once again another exquisite instrumental break that just takes your breath away in it’s simplicity and musicality.

    One word can be used to express my feelings about VP – Masterpiece

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I just re-listened to VP this morning, after a lonnnnnng time not hearing it, in consideration of reading this long awaited essay. (Thank you again for some great reading!) And I realized that the song itself, the lyrics and melody, points a direct arrow at the Electronic album. It sounds so much like it could have been there. That’s not a good or bad thing, just an obvious thing to me marking Barneys writing in place and time. And Barney relaxing his vocal effort, not straining for emotional effect or whatever, which, for me, is a very good thing. This actually makes me want to pull out the Electronic album and give it a turn in my car for awhile, as I have missed it. (lol, Technique has been there for the past month.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right of course; it’s a short hop from VP to Electronic, but also aspects of The Other Two. Less so Revenge.

      I must say, its great that you’re re-listening in this way. I kinda hoped people would…

      Like

  4. Does anyone know if the vaguely mentioned Remixes of VP ever really happened back in ’94?

    Seem to recall it was a choice between True Faith and VP to be released and at the time 5/6 mixes were reported as being either commissioned or completed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Anthony – not sure about 1994; its the first I’ve heard of that, but a radio edit of VP (based on the album version) was prepared by Chris Lord-Alge in 1989 – commissioned by Qwest as one of 2 or 3 edits at the time (also including R&R); although they remain unused.

      DR

      Like

  5. This track is perfection.

    It’s easily in my top ten NO tracks; it would probably make my top five also.

    Although there are three or four other tracks I probably prefer overall (Temptation, TPK and Dream Attack, for instance), Vanishing Point is just the ‘complete track’ for me. It’s up there with TPK as being a technical masterpiece.

    If somebody said to me that this was New Order’s greatest track, I don’t think I could argue with them. It’s just that good.

    The way the track comes back in after the instrumental break is just sublime.

    Also, I adore the way Sumner sings the second verse; it just sounds haunting somehow:

    ‘Listen, can you hear him weeping’. Brilliant lyrics, masterfully delivered.

    And that Big World Cafe appearance is one of my all time favourite TV performances by the band. Immensely cool to see Steve playing the drum pads.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s