Sunday, April 12, 2020

Albums of Influence: Power, Corruption and Lies by New Order

Of all the records I could write about, this is perhaps the most obvious choice. Given that half of New Order had a listening party today to discuss this album, I thought it was high time to write about it.

The albums that have influenced me the most tend to have a few elements in common. Maybe I heard it when I was a teenager, and discovering and falling in love with music. Maybe it has catchy, memorable, hooky songs. Maybe it is a little strange for its time. Maybe it has great artwork. Maybe it is something that inspired me, or is something I have ripped off.

In the case of "Power, Corruption and Lies", all of these things are true.

I was introduced to New Order by Tim Reynolds, who made me a cassette containing their epic "Blue Monday", which was literally life-changing: That song set me on the path to being a rock musician.

That track was so compelling I sought out anything else I could find by the band. I was eventually able to track down a copy of the 12" single of "Blue Monday", and later, the album from that same era: "Power, Corruption and Lies".

This is New Order's best album. It has great songs, covering a range of sounds, moods, and tempos. Guitars, synthesizers, live drums, and drum machines all co-exist. Bernard Sumner warbles his half-brilliant lyrics in his not-too-great voice. The album thrives on contradictions and dichotomies. It's polished and amateurish. Punk and disco. Detached and emotional. The surprisingly dark title belies the generally up-tempo and light music.

It's accessible, and easy to listen to, but it's not really pop. The songs have clear sections, verses and choruses, but they're a little off. Some are nearly instrumental, some are mostly guitar, some are mostly keyboards. There's no "Bizarre Love Triangle", ready for radio. There are slow songs and fast songs. You can sort of dance to some of them. One song talks about the "red hell tide inside" of the singer. The album closes with a wistful song called "Leave Me Alone".

The artwork is surprising: "A Basket of Roses" by Henri Fantin-Latour, which seems about as uncool and unhip as possible. Legendary cover designer Peter Saville overlaid some digital-looking colored blocks in the upper right-hand corner. It turns out these are a code, spelling out the catalog number of the record (FACT75). 

The album is balanced -- 8 songs, with 4 songs on each side. It is impeccably sequenced, and the perfect length.

I have quoted or referenced the floaty string keyboard line from "Age of Consent" in so many of my songs, I should probably send New Order royalties. 

I love this album, and have listened to it countless times. I studied its sounds, beats, melodies, chord progressions, and songwriting. It is difficult to overstate how much it has influenced me, for better or worse. 

I originally bought it on vinyl (because CDs didn't exist yet), then on CD twice. Plus downloads of the "Deluxe Edition" when that became available.

Not long ago, I was facing the very real possibility of hearing damage, up to and including deafness. I thought about what I would choose as the last albums I would ever hear, and "Power, Corruption and Lies" was on that very short list. I bought a reissue of the vinyl. 

It sounds wonderful.

***

"Age of Consent"

"Your Silent Face"

1 comment:

Tyson said...

One of my favorites too and I got the blue monday 12 inch as well. Brilliant album. Going to see them in September if al goes well.