An Interregnum… of sorts…
- 1994: (New Order) Nineteen63, The Best Of, True Faith-94.
- 1995: (New Order) The Rest Of, Blue Monday-95, (The Other Two) Innocence, (Joy Division) Permanent, Love Will Tear Us Apart-95
- 1996: (Electronic) Raise The Pressure, Forbidden City, For You, Second Nature
- 1997: (New Order) Video 5-8-6, (Electronic) Until The End Of Time, (Monaco) Music For Pleasure, What Do You Want From Me?, Sweet Lips, Shine, gigs, (Sub Sub w. Bernard) This Time I’m Not Wrong, (Joy Division) Heart And Soul Box
- 1998: (New Order) Temptation 98, gigs, (Monaco) gigs
- 1999: (Electronic) Twisted Tenderness, Vivid, Late At Night, Make It Happen, (The Other Two) Super Highways, You Can Fly, (Monaco) gigs
- 2000: (Monaco) Monaco, I’ve Got A Feeling, gigs
The mid-’90s – with Republic seemingly the band’s closing statement; completed under such duress after the Factory collapse, nightmares at The Haçienda, and band harmony at a low point – was on the one hand a dark time for fans of the band, but on the other hand (and in hindsight) a good opportunity to let go of it all for a while. It was a break we all had to have (band + fans) because had New Order been forced (by the label, management or themselves) to stick it out immediately beyond Republic, I think we’d have been on board a train wreck. Instead: they all got a chance to express themselves separately, London got some ROI by taking the easy path of compilations and remixes*, and enough air eventually cleared to give Rob Gretton (having himself kept busy with his excellent Robs Records label) the opportunity to regroup the band in 1998** – an admirable exclamation mark on his inestimable role in the story, which so tragically ended the following year. There’s a lot to like across Raise The Pressure, Music For Pleasure, and Superhighways in particular, and they were all very welcome additions to the collection. We’d never have gotten to Get Ready without them.
The standalone Brutal recordings occurred in September 1999, some time before the Get Ready sessions, although I’m told the Brutal sessions apparently also yielded an early version of what later became 60 Miles An Hour (working title ‘The Beach‘ – obviously in relation to the movie soundtrack for which Brutal was recorded). The sessions afforded the band – at this time still the original four but mainly Bernard, Peter and Stephen, with Phil not yet on the scene – a chance to test the waters with recording new material. Based on various peoples’ books and interviews, the band weren’t overly enthused with Rollo’s production, let alone that the track was barely noticeable in the movie scene in which it is used.
So what of it? To these ears Brutal’s sound is unlike any of the rockier tracks produced by New Order to-date – e.g. Run, 1963, Way Of Life, Love Vigilantes, Dreams Never End or Ceremony. It’s an early indication of the palette to come over the next 2 albums; bordering on straight blues-rock with as much swagger as can be affected. It’s particularly there in the drum production and choice of guitar effects, and upon first hearing it it felt like a de-evolution – so many others had been on this path before. The track lacks imagination, feeling as it does like a standard rock plod – certainly not what I was expecting (with such high anticipation) at the time. On a positive note I really like the ‘eastern’ string motifs, and although I found the verses a little pedestrian, the chorus – with Pauline Taylor’s backing and the ‘It’s Alright‘ assurances – was pretty decent (something I noticed on the lesser tracks on Republic, i.e. they were often saved by a quality chorus).
All things aside, Brutal was a new recording from New Order; something I’d just about given up on. It was a glimmer of hope for more to come, and I figured at the time I’d take it.
* Although in my opinion The Best Of (with it’s unnecessary ’94 reworkings and not-really-best-of track selection) and The Rest Of (with some truly pants remixes) were poorly executed opportunities. The only highlights from the entire campaign were the TF-94 Perfecto mix and the BM-95 Hardfloor mix.
** With only 4 (reportedly awesome) New Order gigs performed in 1998, I’m still sore – having travelled to Europe and the UK that year – that the UK Phoenix Festival was cancelled, for which we had tickets and which would have been my first NO live opportunity (having inexplicably missed their Aus/NZ tour in 1987). This wrong would eventually be righted at The Big Day Out, Gold Coast in 2002 (inclusive of Viking investiture – thanks JG et al).
Available on: Brutal