Section 25

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By 2013, Section 25 were an accepted cult favorite (Factory Records fans and those nostalgic for "Madchester" were the bulk of their audience) and a veteran post-punk group (having formed in 1977), but look closer and there's a heartwarming, phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes story to be told. The unromantic long and short of it goes that leader Larry Cassidy passed away in 2010, six years after his wife/bandmate/lead singer Jenny had passed away, and while that all points to the dour, Joy Division side of Factory where everything seemed doomed or cursed, the Cassidys' daughter, Bethany, has ushered the group into the more New Order, more synth pop side of the Factory aesthetic with brilliant, bright dance-pop. To be fair, there were previous clues, like the remix album Retrofit (2010), a bittersweet effort with Larry passing before its completion yet "showing the way" with his re-embracing of the dance beat, along with the masterpiece album From the Hip (1984) and the semi-hit "Looking from a Hilltop," which were shiny, dance, and pop, but like everything during the Mach 1 era, almost discreet. The opener here, "World's End," holds that same kind of reserve, floating and dreaming with sequencers set on "soft," but "My Outrage" is identifiable Bethany era, brimming with youth and youthful disdain for crappy boyfriends, all while bleeping and bopping like any happening hipster who is borrowing the best from new wave. Thing is, Bethany is backed by a band whose members were there when the wave really was new, and they're family, with Vincent Cassidy and Joanna Cassidy joined by longtime Sectioner Stephen Stringer, all of them providing the rock-solid grooves. "Inner Drive" is the cool combination of Kraftwerk and Ladytron only a cross-generational group like this could achieve, and if the hooky single "Colour Movement Sex & Violence" didn't fall off New Order's Power, Corruption & Lies, the next best candidate would be the Killers' Day & Age. Fine songwriting, that kinetic, '80s mix of live and computerized, and a well-designed layout for the album -- closing with one more nod to the past -- make this effort both a time-warping triumph and a stunning rebirth from the band that always deserved better.

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