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In spring 1991 the “post-modern music” segment of my top 40 radio station played Enigma’s “Mea Culpa,” Elvis Costello’s “The Other Side of Summer,” Daniel Ash’s “This Love,” and Electronic’s “Get The Message” back to back. I own the tape on which I recorded the sequence. I liked them at the time but loved “Get The Message” for its shufflebeat, an acoustic guitar strum hook so basic that I’m amazed no one before Johnny Marr had played it, and the winsome vocals of Bernard Sumner, whom I’d previously heard on the previous spring’s “Getting Away With It,” a Neil Tennant collaboration that actually grazed the American top forty. My friend Greg bought the eponymous Electronic album a couple of months later; I taped my own copy in July. I don’t think I’ve come as close to wearing out a tape. Sumner’s lyrics complemented the exquisiteness of his and Marr’s songs like the guitars did the synth stabs. Found poetry like “Better than to live than to know” sat beside doggerel like “We both need each other like sister and brother”;  Sumner was capable of genuine inspiration too: “I don’t know if we could get lost in a city this size” is a banger of an opener. What fantastic arrogance, I thought.

I didn’t hear my first New Order album until that fall. I played the first side of a used LP copy of Low Life, particularly infatuated with “Love Vigilantes” and the Sumner guitar (he played it too!) freakout called “Sunrise.” Technique, just over two years old at that point, was the revelation. The beats had the Day Glo colors of the album sleeve; the interlocking bass and guitar riffs didn’t give a damn whether they played over acoustic or programmed drums. In an era when a marketing phenomenon inspired by a certain Seattle band stood poised to extirpate any British influence from playlists, New Order’s cavalier approach to genres was godlike. Those pre-Internet days were best for fans — we had to invest the band with mythos. At the library I read what little I could about the band on microfiche and bound volumes. They produced themselves, so presumably they had no time to list instrumental credits. Photos were so rare that it took a year to learn that keyboardist/guitarist Gillian Gilbert was a woman and married to drummer Stephen Morris (I don’t know what I was supposed to think about her image on Low Life‘s sleeve). I loved the idea of a band reconstituting itself after the suicide of its lead singer by getting the lead guitarist up to the mic to sing lyrics of his own composition (which he’d never done before).

Although 1991 and 1992 were still years when Joy Division and New Order fans were discrete entities, I could hear echoes of the band’s previous incarnation on Power, Corruption & Lies; in a journal I wrote that “We All Stand was “pastoral Joy Division,” an impressive remark from a seventeen-year-old non-critic. Brotherhood confirmed the lineage. I didn’t need the reassurance. New Order was my favorite band. Anonymity, chilling formalism, sequencers sweet enough for a Janet Jackson fan and power chords harsh enough for a Jesus and Mary Chain fan, the purity of their devotion to rhythm in whatever permutation so long as you dance dance dance to the radio — there it was. I wrote an abortive short story based on “True Faith,” trying to stumble on a literary equivalent to what New Order and Stephen Hague achieved: a wall of sound, granitic, whose density forces Sumner to deliver the quietest admissions of euphoria ever sung. His voice formed just one portion of the edifice, as interchangeable as Peter Hook’s brief bass run (the song is an engineer’s dream). A valedictory to the best and worst year of my life.

Experiencing Republic in real time sobered me: the first okay to great New Order album of their career, thus their most human. Then they vanished, disgusted with themselves and — one hopes — the direction of British music for the next seven years; we got no Ultra or Wild Mood Swings, but I did play Electronic’s second album in the summer of 1996 almost as often as the first five years earlier because I love Sumner’s voice like others did Dylan’s or Aretha’s. It had a way of fleshing complexities without fuss. 2001’s Get Ready wasn’t a comeback — it was their new album, baited with one of their best singles.

1. Temptation (12″)
2. True Faith
3. All The Way
4. Regret
5. Leave Me Alone
6. Everyone Everywhere
7. Weirdo
8. Ceremony
9. Some Distant Memory (Electronic)
10. Confusion
11. Get the Message (Electronic)
12. Age of Consent
13. Procession
14. This Time of Night
15. Crystal
16. Dream Attack
17. Touched By the Hand of God
18. Senses
19. 1963
20. Lonesome Tonight
21. Love Less
22. Morning Night and Day
23. Getting Away With It (Electronic)
24. All Day Long
25. Dreams Never End
26. Mr. Disco
27. World (The Price of Love)
28. As It Is When It Was
29. Your Silent Face
30. Forbidden City (Electronic)
31. Cries and Whispers
32. Perfect Kiss
33. Run
34. Krafty
35. Tutti Frutti
36. Special
37. Round and Round
38. Sunrise
39. Angel Dust
40. Run Wild