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Get Ready (2001)

Eight years on from their last outing, the slightly disappointing 'Republic', New Order return with 'Get Ready', their seventh studio album. The sessions for 'Republic' were so notoriously fractious and fraught, that it was widely assumed there'd be no more Fine Times. So, for devoted disciples, their comeback is feverishly anticipated, though, in view of the underwhelming impression of early reviews, with some trepidation.

Within hip circles, Joy Division's enigmatic canon is revered as sacrosanct, whereas New Order tend to be underrated; pooh-poohed as the indie Pet Shop Boys. This is grossly unjust. New Order are undoubtedly one of the most influential bands of the last 20 years. Phoenixing from the ashes of Joy Division, the new band concocted an exhilarating synthesis of Kraftwerk's gliding synth travelogues, cascading bass lines, stuttering Chic chops, Giorgio Moroder's computer disco, N. Y. electro, and Velvets guitar. It's almost impossible now to convey how futuristic the seminal 'Blue Monday' sounded back in March 1983. Yes, 1983! Six years later, they surfed the 'second summer of love' zeitgeist with the dance pop masterpiece 'Technique', partly recorded on Ibiza.

This time out, Steve Osbourne, part of the Perfecto production team, replaces Stephen Hague behind the desk and helps hone a predominantly heads down, full-on axe attack. Thankfully, unlike on 'Republic', Hooky's trademark lead bass lines are prominent throughout; Pete even chucks in a cheeky crib from Joy Division's 'Twenty Four Hours' for the intro to the moody 'n' broody 'Primitive Notion'. Consequently, the overall vibe is the ragged glory of 'Sunrise' (from 'Low Life') rather than the shimmering synth pop of 'True Faith'.

This potent renaissance is immediately evident with opener and current Top 10 smash 'Crystal'. A sleekly propulsive adrenaline rush, it's the soundtrack to hurtling, blitzed to the gills, through neon strafed European cities at midnight. Barney is in typical lyrical form, at once naively evocative and mind-bogglingly naff, "Here comes love, it's like honey, you can't buy it with money". Good grief. Nevertheless, it's Sumner's halting, occasionally marmite-thin vocals that redeem such wincing lyrical howlers. For despite some vocal shortcomings, his voice is remarkably endearing, the total lack of artifice suggesting both sincerity and spontaneity.

Unfortunately, nothing can salvage the witless wordplay of the Brit-poppy 'Slow Jam', while even Bobby Gillespie and the Scream team fail to ignite the unforgivably lame Stooges boogie of 'Rock The Shack'. Somewhat surprisingly, it's left to Smashing Pumpkin, Billy Corgan, to provide the 'star turn' with the mesmerizing melancholia of 'Turn My Way'. Even better is the simply sublime 'Run Wild', featuring Barney on heart-rending mellotron, acoustic guitars, surging strings and hurrah, a candid, genuinely affecting lyric.

Touched by the hand of God? Well, it's not 'Low Life' or 'Technique' but there's at least seven welcome additions to the New Order canon and in the thrilling 'Crystal' and poignant 'Run Wild', a brace of bona fide classics. As Barney puts it, "Good times around the corner, I swear it's getting warmer".

Chris King

Source: DotMusic (Chris King)