Instead of settling down in front of the mixing board for another dance album (a lá Technique or Republic), New Order returned in 2001 with a sound and style they hadn't played with for over a decade. Unsurprisingly bored by the stale British club scene circa 2001, the band opened Get Ready with a statement of purpose, a trailer single ("Crystal") featuring a host of longtime New Order staples: a sublime melody, an inscrutable set of lyrics, a deft, ragged guitar line kicking in for the chorus, and Peter Hook's yearning bass guitar taking a near-solo role. Though there are several allowances for the electronic-dance form New Order helped develop, Get Ready is a very straight-ahead album, their first work in 15 years that's focused on songwriting and performance rather than grafted dance techniques. (Of course, the band proved themselves far more than studio hands at several points, stretching back over twenty years to Joy Division's landmark Unknown Pleasures, as well as later New Order LPs like 1985's Low-life and 1986's Brotherhood.)
Listeners familiar with the blueprint of early New Order work will find much to love on Get Ready, from the tough rockers "60 Miles an Hour" and "Primitive Notion" to pastoral downtempo material like "Turn My Way," "Vicious Streak," and the melodica-driven closer "Run Wild." This naked songcraft, however, does reveal a few of the band's deficiencies. Bernard Summer's lyrics drift toward the inane: "I'll be there for you when you want me to/I'll stand by your side like I always do/In the dead of night it'll be alright/cuz I'll be there for you when you want me to." And the band can't help but identify with a younger generation of music-makers, inviting Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie over for "Rock the Shack" and turning in a dense, chaotic production that's all but de rigeur for Gillespie but very strained for New Order. (The other main collaborative track, with stranded Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan, is surprisingly unembarassing.) Even for fans who don't need any convincing, Get Ready is a true "grower," an album that reveal its delicious secrets -- sublime songcraft, introverted delivery, collaborative musicianship -- slowly and only after several listens.