I did things the wrong way round.
Or the right way round.
Or round and round.
In 1989 I had no idea who Joy Division were.
I knew who New Order were.
I had heard that “Blue Monday” song.
Then, one day after school, I found myself in Sleeves looking at the cassettes…because they were cheaper than records and I didn’t have a lot of money.
I saw the cover for “Technique” and thought it looked cool.
Only a fool doesn’t judge a record by its cover.
I bought it.
At home in my bedroom which, at this point, was still a shrine to Morrissey I placed the little rectangle of plastic and tape into the cassette deck of my hi-fi and pushed play.
You have to remember that I was the oldest child…I didn’t have a cool older sibling to educate me on the hip new sounds, to tell me what was in and what was out, to hand down key records to aid in my musical development. Instead I was existing on my parents record collection (thankfully they were Mods so this was a treasure trove of sixties pop and soul) and things that I saw on the television or heard on the top forty each Sunday afternoon. That and the occasional copy of an album from the cool kid Chris who worked cut my hair and who had introduced me to The Smiths.
This was one of the first things I had bought that I had no real knowledge of.
I didn’t know what dance music was.
I had no knowledge of who, what or where an Ibiza might be.
I couldn’t spell ecstasy.
“Fine Time” sounded a bit like certain things I recognised…there were guitars, a vocal, synths, a bass and drums. The Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode used synths but this didn’t sound like them. The Cure and The Smiths used drums, bass and guitars but this didn’t sound like them either.
A familiar unfamiliarity.
The past doesn’t matter…it took me a long time to work out that was what was being sung, over and over and over like a monkey with a miniature cymbal.
The past was theirs but the future was ours.
Then “All the Way” did something different…I was back on familiar territory. This was jingly guitars, a dizzy melody and the sort of thing that could see me whirl around in front of my bedroom mirror for hours. “It takes years to find the nerve…to find the truth inside yourself” made me feel as close to happy as I had for months; I had no idea who I was, everyone else seemed to have figured it out. Sporty kids, cool kids, clever kids, musical kids, art kids…and me with no idea of who or what I was. Now somebody was telling me that I would figure it out, it was just going to take some time. “Love Less” was just as familiar…indie music, pop and roll. I was beginning to think that I had imagined “Fine Time”, that maybe it had been some sort of auditory hallucination.
“Round and Round” dragged me back to a sun kissed island in the Mediterranean I didn’t know existed with it’s bleeps, bloops and Balearic beats. At about three minutes in I suddenly found myself climbing up off my bed and…dancing. My body, which up to this point seemed to have no sense of rhythm, suddenly began to shuffle in a fashion that was, vaguely, in time with what was coming out of the speakers. I liked it. I’m sure it looked utterly ridiculous but, here we go again, I was happy.
“Guilty Partner” and “Run” were blissful guitar pop, the melody and joy at the heart of the music was infectious. There was melancholy in the voice and some of the words but, for possibly the first time, I was more interested in the music than the lyrics…that is a compliment and not a criticism. Repeated listens revealed the sweetness, the tenderness, the happiness and the misery of Sumner’s lyrics but right there, right then it was all about the melody.
“Mr Disco” and “Dream Attack” were both equally wonderful but the highlight of the album, for this spotty little geezer from a coastal town in Fife, was “Vanishing Point”. It was a brooding, thumping, fuzzy, dizzy, maudlin, hopeful, peculiar, strong and delicate sliver of electronica, indie and dance all blended together to produce something utterly unique. I nearly broke the rewind button on my cassette player…listening to it time after time.
“Technique” was my first foray into the world of New Order.
I understand that people approach Joy Division with a near religious fervour and I do understand why…I really do.
To these ears, to this half-mind, to this broken soul New Order are where the magic really lies. Magic it is too. Rising from the ashes of a tragedy to create, invent, re-invent and create again music that was of its time, that defined its time and that pointed to the future in ways that few others have managed. New Order are a band to treasure and it all starts, for me, with “Technique”.