I freely admit, dear readers, that in several recent reviews there has been a tendency towards targeted observations of the less-than-exuberant kind. This is unpleasant territory for the hardcore fan, of which I am one, and it rankles to cast aspersions on anything that Bernard, Peter, Stephen, Gillian, Phil and/or Tom have worked hard to write, perform, record, and produce. In June this year they’ll have been at it (it being the releasing of music) for 40 years*! Hell of an achievement really.
And yet it’s right to call them out when they occasionally put a fart to vinyl, because – like I was proselytising to my teenage son the other day – there is no success without mistakes; no evolution without the occasional failure. New Order are precisely the wonderful thing that they are because we can count on them to cough up the (very) occasional furball. And we need them to, it keeps them human, keeps us talking, and otherwise we’d have nothing to gauge a Your Silent Face from a Times Change.
I raised in an earlier review the expectation that preceded Get Ready, and I was certainly guilty of putting up a Trump-sized wall of it leading up to the album’s release. I’d gotten myself ready for an album of genius proportions, made up of unimaginably brilliant electronic and alternative rock originals, blowing my mind with the inventiveness of it all, justifying 8 years of side projects to clear their collective heads, and reinstating the band at the pointy end of the creative pyramid. Funnily enough that didn’t eventuate, and what I took away from the album at the time was a big hit of WTF?, as the band set out on some jam with what my heart was telling me was a motley crowd of producers and collaborators riding on New Order’s coattails and in fact holding them back from greatness. It occurs to me now that one of my main blockages was that I’d never expected this group of pioneers – these self-taught champions of the synth, the abstract, the alternative, and the leftfield – to ever use words like ‘Jam’, ‘Rock’, ‘Shack’, ‘Shake’ or ‘Wild’ in their song titles; let alone be caught singing about beer, getting high, and the tribulations of Joe, Jack & Jehovah. They seemed to be straying into territory where a song called ‘Railroad Whisky Blues’ or ‘Long Wild Hair’ was a distinct possibility, and producers were urging a keep it real mentality. Fuck that, thought I. This wasn’t my New Order.
But that was 2001. It might surprise you to hear me say – particularly as I have sensed an expectation (on your part) of a hatchet job (on my part) on the next few tracks on the album – that Get Ready is actually good. In spending a (long) time re-listening for these reviews, I’ve revisited my dated prejudices and there’s a change in mood. Well… for Slow Jam anyway!
They could so easily have called this ‘Monochrome’ and it would have been so much cooler and so much more New Order-y sounding, because I frankly hate the title. But, judging this book not by its cover, I’ve always in fact really enjoyed Slow Jam precisely for what its (stupid) name suggests – its a head-nodding chug of a track with a cool groove and some enthusiasm from Bernard; not something he commonly expresses (and is increasingly noticeable over the forthcoming albums). The sentiment of the chorus: ‘I don’t want the world to change, I like the way it is / To hit and not to miss, I can’t get enough of this‘ really resonates with me, and feels like a counter to the old chestnut of having not found what one is looking for. Yes, of course we get some lyrical dodginess in Sumner’s beer / sea / sick / arithmetic thing, but I seem more willing to let it go compared with similar turns in Primitive Notion or Rock The Shack, possibly because I’m enjoying his lower-than-usual singing register in the verses. Calling the song ‘Arithmetic’ would have been even more cute!
Here in Australia we were treated to the song being used on a half-decent Ford TV advertisement, resulting in Slow Jam being locally issued as a rare promo CD and considered for release as a third single from the album.
* An Ideal For Living: June 1978
Available on: Get Ready