Hands up if you like Bernard rapping?
Like Chemical, Liar, and Ruined In A Day, Times Change suffers from an identity crisis. It occurs to me now that these tracks – the weakest on Republic – are all an attempt to nudge somebody’s ill-defined genre envelope; respectively Industrial, MOR, Dancehall, and Rap – none of which succeed. In going through this review process I think I can finally articulate what the fundamental issue is with the album, and that is: On Republic, New Order were – either by choice or by production or label influence – persuaded for the first time to copy rather than invent. Unfortunately this problem underpins the weaker tracks on Get Ready and Waiting For The Siren’s Call as well. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: New Order are at their best when they self-produce. Guest musicians and vocalists? Fine. Guest producers that try to constrain the quicksilver? Bad. You’re just opening the door to mediocrity and expediency.
My problem with Times Change is that it sounds like a product of some Frankensteinian experiment, in that it has Bernard rapping* to a completely derivative slip-beat drum loop, interspersed with a perfectly melodic alt/dance New Order chorus, and then – as if giving him something to do – the track drops to Hooky noodling pointless sweet-nothings that bear no relation to the surrounding song. Times Change is like a 3rd rate Electronic demo, spliced with part of a great but unfinished New Order song, and cut with a studio mishap where the engineer accidentally records the bass guitarist tuning up in the stairwell.
…and I can’t eliminate the mental image – from his opening rap lyric – of Bernard lying Christ-like in a hay-filled manger, suffering yellow fever. That must have been some weird trip – perhaps a throwback to the kid in the Fine Time video, dreaming of dirigible pills for Christmas?
Times Change: give me the chorus, the second instrumental lead-in with the interesting cuts, plus the melodic intro & outro Oboe instrumentals. Delete the rest and rebuild, or in actuality just ignore it completely and move quickly on to Special and Avalanche; the saving graces of the album.
* Something which he is wholly unsuited to. Whoever counseled Sumner that he should try rapping should be slapped. I love Bernard’s singing precisely because it is unique and special and emotional and imperfect. If you’re needing rap in your track, get a rapper; 808 State did it nicely with MC Tunes, and there were (are) plenty of talented hip-hop artists in the Manchester scene who would have made for a really interesting collaboration.
Available on: Republic