New Order

Waiting for the Sirens' Call

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When New Order returned in 2001 with their first new record in eight years, the album they created (Get Ready) was given a great deal of leeway by fans (if not critics). Was it original? Not very. Although the band never recycled a riff, many of the songs recalled not just the band's salad days, but often specific performances from '80s touchstones Brotherhood or Low-life. What saved Get Ready from irrelevance was a brace of great songs, a new look at the band as capable rockers, and what's more, that uncanny ability to produce timeless, ever-fresh recordings. Almost as surprising as that comeback record was its follow-up, Waiting for the Sirens' Call, which arrived in 2005. If New Order's ambition was only to reinforce themselves in their fans' imaginations as members of a working band (à la their contemporaries Echo & the Bunnymen or even Duran Duran, for that matter), then the album is a success. Unfortunately, however, the adjectives that need to be attached to this record -- workmanlike, customary, unembarrassing -- aren't going to make music fans flood the record stores seeking copies. Bernard Sumner showed the effects of a writing drought, returning to old musical themes he'd visited (and revisited) before, and writing lyrics that make their 1993 single "Regret" a career classic in comparison. Titling a dramatic rocker "Dracula's Castle" may be perfectly acceptable, but then making explicit mention of that metaphor within a set of clumsy lyrics ("You came in the night and took my heart/To Dracula's castle, in the dark") is taking the easy way out, to say the least. The first single, "Krafty," makes the band's ties to Kraftwerk obvious, but while the German motorische experts manufactured cleverly simplistic productions, they never reached the rudimentary levels of this single. (And they surely knew better than making it sound like they meant it, as Sumner does, with the awful rhyme "But the world is a wonderful place/With mountains, lakes, and the human race.") Even the mainstream dance tracks, "Jetstream" and "Guilt Is a Useless Emotion," evince a cold heartlessness that the band never strayed into during the '80s. If New Order continue making albums every several years instead of every decade, critics will quickly begin to strain for new ways to describe Peter Hook's plangent bass work or Sumner's half-bemused, half-baffled songwriting and vocal delivery. Still, that's nothing compared to what New Order might be reduced to recycling.

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