I’ve been treading water for a while, hanging on for dear life as the eye of a storm approaches. Re-reading both Peter’s and Bernard’s recent biographies* (and specifically their recollections on this period) it’s remarkable that another album ever saw the light of day; let alone 2 albums’ worth of material, because in any other reality the toxic combination of friction, alcoholism & rehab, family pressures & illness, jockeying for control (perceived or otherwise), competing initiatives etc., could so easily have short circuited anything creative – stopping the Sirens’ sessions in their tracks. Same-but-different ‘under duress’ forces were at work circa-Republic and yet we can be thankful for stunners like Regret and Avalanche. Similarly, over a decade later, when logic would suggest that it’s all just too hard, the band can still deliver a track like Waiting For The Sirens’ Call.
… and what a track.
There’s a pattern to many (if not most) of my favourite New Order songs, because they all feature:
- Human-condition themes from Bernard that involve reflection, regret and / or redemption, and a sense of place and time.
- An exquisite blend of electronics and rock. To me this is the peerless New Order sound (that they should never lose sight of, or feel indifference towards).
- Melody, melody and more melody; usually led from the front by the bassline.
- Strings. Beautiful soaring strings.
- Textural and riff-laden guitars.
- Driving percussion, preferably played rather than programmed.
- A reprise completely unlike any of the preceding verses and choruses. I love the reprise in WFTSC; really emotional and heartfelt** from Bernard.
WFTSC ticks all of these boxes, with all parts – choruses, verses, and breaks – firing in beautiful harmony. It’s no surprise that it’s the one track from the album that features in live sets to this day (recent Σ gigs notwithstanding) and was included in the 2007 iTunes Originals set. I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest (cue the flood gates) that it’s the last great classic New Order track prior to the shitstorm; and (although thankfully things have worked out otherwise) correspondingly at the time I thought that its release as the final single*** was a great way to go out.
The Rich Costey Mix from the CDS – an edit of which appeared on the 1st 7″ and subsequently the Singles compilation – structurally follows the album version but sonically sits differently, being to my ears ‘lifted’ and ‘clarified’, particularly around the non-electronic parts. It’s probably a case of ‘6 of one and half a dozen of the other’ but I prefer the ambiance and atmosphere of the album mix and Band Mix (from the 2nd 7″); the latter in my opinion which would have been a slightly better choice for inclusion on Singles.
The Jacknife Lee Remix – also from the CDS, and with an edit on the 3rd 7″ – is serviceable but doesn’t blow me away; offering only a new main synth sequence to pique the interest, and suffering by shifting Hooky’s excellent riffs way too distant in the mix, and substituting Morris’s quality performance for some fairly featureless drum programming.
I’m not sure how the various remixes were commissioned at the time, because in my opinion the best of all – the Planet Funk Remix from the New State Recordings 12″ issue (NSER007) – should have been offered up as the primary remix on a dedicated London-issued 12″ ****. This version is terrific – one of the top drawer remixes in the New Order canon. I love the progressive lead-in, with its phasing sequences and reverbed keyboard stabs, and the added FX on Bernard’s vox. It’s an uncomplicated but really effective reinterpretation.
Conversely the Asle Dub from the same 12″ is less than stellar; hanging its hat on looped repetitions of the ‘How many times’ vocal and a whispered (re-sung by Asle?) ‘I got it all wrong’ sample, which grate very quickly. On a positive note the Asle Dub does enjoy sections of solid stomping house. There’s an unreleased Full Blown Vocal Mix (also by Asle) which didn’t make it to official release but may have been a better option. Finally, there is the Filterheadz Remix on the B-side of the New State NSER010 12″ edition, which to be perfectly honest I haven’t heard yet, so I’ll reserve this spot for additional comments when I can find a copy! UPDATE: My copy of this 12″ arrived, and I have to say the Filterheadz Remix isn’t bad at all; at its core a chattering drum-loop driven and buzzing low-end techno excursion. There’s not much left of the original song’s form and function, save for the remix’s best section – the excellent breakdown between ~2:00 and ~4:00 – which is moody and dark, with retained but highly effected vocal lines, guitars and chords. Filterheadz’ is a worthy mix, curiously limited to this 12″.
So this is it. Along with Crystal, Waiting For The Sirens’ Call is New Order’s finest song from their Get Ready / Sirens’ period, and for me it is a stone cold New Order classic.
* Bring on Stephen Morris’s book…
** I don’t know about you, but to this day there are numerous New Order songs that I’ve heard a thousand times or more and yet they still really choke me up. The reprise in this song is one of those moments.
*** The formats of the WFTSC single release were very curious: a set of 3 x 7″ records with a collectible sleeve to house them all, a singular CDS with only 2 tracks on it (neither of them the best of the available remixes), and no London-issue 12″. Respect though to London for the quirky 7″ series (and in particular their B-sides – being really excellent contemporary remixes of much older singles), and kudos to New State Recordings on their WFTSC 12″, featuring the superfine Planet Funk Remix; part of their (somewhat oddly grouped) 12″ x 12 remix reissue program. By ‘oddly grouped’ I mean this, this, and this as examples. Odd.
**** By my reckoning WFTSC was the first New Order single ever to not have a primary-label 12″, which for this band – a pioneer of the format – seems completely and utterly sacrilegious!
Available on: Waiting For The Sirens’ Call