New Order

The Peel Sessions

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Like Joy Division before them, New Order recorded just two sessions for BBC DJ John Peel, in January 1981 and June 1982. The first was six months after the death of Ian Curtis, marking the first opportunity most people even had of hearing the "new" band; the second catching them in the aftermath of the "Temptation" single that suggested the group was not going to rest content in Joy Division's shadow for long. Both, then, had ample opportunity to shock and surprise their listeners, and both grasped that opportunity with open paws.

In terms of all that New Order would go on to create, the first session is educational, rather than exciting, as Bernard Sumner took over both the group's lead vocals and the lion's share of the lyric-writing duties, and proved he was capable of handling them both. "Dreams Never End," "ICB," "Truth," and "Senses" would all develop somewhat in the months to come, as New Order worked toward the release of Movement, but the group is already firmly in control; and the sound, though close enough to the percolating density of the past for comfort, is already moving fast enough away from it to ensure that the new group wasn't simply the Old Mark Two.

All predictions and prayers were, of course, borne out by the time the group returned to the Peel session studio 18 months later, and the ensuing four songs rank among New Order's most captivating performances yet. The moodily shifting "5-8-6" with (let hindsight be our guide) the spirit of "Blue Monday" already rumbling around its rhythms, broods with deliberate incisiveness, a temperament that both "Too Late" and "We All Stand" readily echo. But it is the final track, a supremely Spartan rendition of reggae star Keith Hudson's "Turn the Heater On," that truly marks this out as a classic Peel session. Beautifully understated, supremely sinister, and irresistibly danceable, it makes one wonder why New Order never took the song any further than a one-off radio session.

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