Sunday, March 17, 2013

Album Review: New Order – Lost Sirens (2013)

All early indications are that 2013 is quickly shaping up as The Year of the Comeback. Barely anticipated new albums from David Bowie and My Bloody Valentine have dominated music pages, blogs, twitter feeds, and just about every other form of social media, where the relative merits of each release have been endlessly debated.

There have been similarly unexpected surprises from Suede and The House of Love, along with news that Primal Scream’s first new work in five years is only a matter of days away. Throw in the fact that the Stone Roses actually played a gig in Auckland last month, and you would be forgiven if you believed you’d taken a wrong turn at New Year’s Eve to somehow end up being involuntarily transported two full decades back to 1993.

And then there’s this, New Order’s “new” album, Lost Sirens. Only this isn’t so much a comeback, as it is the release of a bunch of previously shelved cuts from the Waiting for the Sirens’ Call (2005) sessions. I’m not quite sure why, I wouldn’t have thought it a particularly lucrative cash cow for the band to release this now, and I can only suppose it’s simply all about just keeping the band’s name out there.

Still a viable going concern as a touring act, sans the now departed pivotal bassist Peter Hook, who does of course feature prodigiously on Lost Sirens, it’s perhaps a way of saying there’s life in the old dog yet. But the sad reality is that subsequent events and petty in-house issues have rendered a few of these tracks worthwhile only as keepsakes of the original band in its death throes.

Mercifully short at eight tracks across just 38 minutes, the fact is the two best tracks on Lost Sirens have been released before; ‘Hellbent’, a Dandy Warholesque rocker, had previously appeared on that suspiciously exploitative Joy Division/New Order co-compilation Total, while ‘I Told You So’ goes one better, having formerly been sighted on the actual Waiting for the Sirens’ Call album in its original form. Only this time we get a re-work.

The other six tracks are interesting enough in an anal happy-to-have-them kinda way, but non New Order fans are unlikely to be converted by any of the “new” material on offer. Considering the original Sirens is one of the least heralded or celebrated New Order releases, it’s difficult to understand why we’re now hearing work that didn’t even make the cut at the time.

"once more for the cameras lads"
But it is what it is – another batch of music to add to the ever expanding New Order file. The band hasn’t had its problems to seek in recent years, and I note things between Sumner and Hook appear to have taken yet another turn for the worse, so I don’t really want to bag New Order. I’ve got everything they’ve ever done in one form or another and the band’s five Eighties albums represent a practically flawless run. It’s just that none of this work measures up to that group in its pomp, and I’m surprised to see it out here.

Highlights: there’s some cheesy and rather weak lyrics on offer but if you can get past that then … ‘Hellbent’, ‘I’ll Stay With You’, ‘Recoil’, ‘Californian Grass’, and ‘I Told You So’.  Here's 'Hellbent' ..

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