Interrobang Rewind: Power, Corruption & Lies — New Order

The album cover for Power, Corruption, & Lies. It's a painting of a bouqet, with New Orders' logo in the top right corner. CREDIT: PUBLIC DOMAIN
New Order's second album is a fantastic step forward into the band’s new style and future.

New Order is a band that has an inherent sense of tragedy to them. After the suicide of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, the remaining members of the band didn’t want to continue making music under the name, and so, New Order was formed.

The band’s first release, Movement, continued the post-punk legacy of Joy Division, but the band didn’t discover their own sound until their second release and the topic of this review, Power, Corruption & Lies.

To clear things up, I’ll be reviewing the 1986 American CD release, which includes two more tracks than the original vinyl, specifically “The Beach” and “Blue Monday.” My reasoning for this is that that’s the version I listened to first, and “Blue Monday” is such a good song that it needs to be in this review.

Navigator. Londons student lifestyles magazine.

Released May 2, 1983, Power, Corruption & Lies marks New Order’s first album not as the remnants of Joy Division, but as their own band. The album features much more electronic sounds and heavier use of synths than their first release. The album incorporates elements of the band’s post-punk roots with dance and electronic music.

The album opens with an instantly iconic bassline from its first song. “Age of Consent” is a more traditional post-punk song, for the most part. Partway into the song, some synthesized strings come in to support the second chorus. The song is upbeat, but talks about how the narrator wants out of an unfulfilling relationship, but isn’t willing to make that move.

That song is a perfect microcosm of the album’s style on the whole, a running theme I’m starting to notice in these reviews. Most albums have one song that you can point to and say, “That’s the song that perfectly sums up the album stylistically.” Here, it’s the mix of upbeat vocals and instrumentals, combined with melancholy lyrical content. The music is bright, but it’s not happy per se.

Another highlight is “Your Silent Face,” which turns the tempo down, allowing the beautiful orchestral synth work by Gillian Gilbert to be on full display. The song is a little cryptic in terms of its lyricism, but there are a few ways to interpret them. The interpretation I like, especially because it fits into my narrative of this album being New Order leaving Joy Division behind, is that the song is about loss, specifically losing a close friend to suicide, and moving on from that loss.

You may have to stretch a little, but lyrics like, “A thought that never changes/Remains a stupid lie” can be interpreted as someone regretting the final thing they said to their now dead friend. Even the title, “Your Silent Face,” evokes imagery of funerals. Right when there might be a breakthrough, the narrator tells you to “piss off.” The album isn’t all dour, however; in fact, many of the songs on this album are certified dance bops. “The Village” has a quick tempo, talking about how love is like flowers, the sea, rain, and even time itself. “Ultraviolence” is the complete opposite tonally. It has these stabbing drums that keep the song moving, along with this strange, almost scratchy guitar.

And of course, who can forget “Blue Monday.” It’s New Order’s other really famous song, other than “Age of Consent.” It was a huge hit, still being the best-selling 12-inch single of all time. It’s got this amazing choir sample that gives the song an almost alien feel, contrasting with the personal lyrics about poor treatment from a lover, before the lover leaves for greener pastures. It’s such a good song and it is unmistakably New Order.

And that’s what this album is at the end of the day. It’s the first time New Order was, well, New Order. Not the remnants of Joy Division making a send-off to their former band and lost friend. This is a group of people accepting loss, and looking forward into a bright, synth filled future.

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