Near-perfect collection of New Order's early singles
H. Jin | Melbourne, Australia | 09/25/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like Joy Division, New Order's singles as a rule didn't appear on their albums. Unlike Joy Division, New Order's singles were nearly always their best songs. All of this makes 'Substance' an essential collection for serious New Order fans, as well as being the best place to start for casual fans. 'Substance' covers that band's most consistent and creative period, beginning with the final Joy Division song 'Ceremony' and ending with 'True Faith', which would become one of their biggest hits.
The first CD consists of New Order's singles from 1981-1987, containing all of their most important songs: 'Ceremony', 'Temptation', 'Blue Monday', 'Perfect Kiss', 'Bizzare Love Triangle', 'True Faith'. Apart from new recordings of 'Temptation' and 'Confusion' (both of which are superior to the original versions), these are all the original extended 12" mixes. This does mean a couple of songs drag on a little, but the quality of the music is so high that most of the time you won't care. While every song has a clear electronic and dance/rock influence, there is still considerable diversity here: the post-punk of 'Ceremony', the vaguely hip-hop 'Confusion', the blue-eyed soul of 'Thieves Like Us', the football chant of 'Shellshock'. The only dud is the 12" mix of 'Subculture', which is a shocker, marred by annoying backup singers and unnecessary studio affects. The 7" version on 'Low Life' is vastly superior to this.
The second CD consists of all the B-sides, and as with Joy Division's 'Substance', there are some real hidden gems here. About half the tracks are take-it-or-leave-it remixes and instrumentals of the A-sides, but there are 7 original songs. Beginning with the unsettling 'In a Lonely Place', it includes 'Procession' and 'Mesh' (actually 'Cries and Whispers')from the Movement sessions, the proto-industrial 'Hurt', and a pair of decent pop/rock tracks in 'Lonesome Tonight' and '1963'. The most interesting song here is the disturbing 'Murder', a chaotic tribal song that sounds like it belongs a horror movie soundtrack.
In all, this is the best collection of New Order songs around. The 12" mixes really highlight the impact New Order's early work had on dance and electronic music, whereas most other collections present songs in the more radio-friendly 7" mixes. And given the band's singles were their best tracks, there are no weak spots or embarassing moments which plague a couple of the studio albums. This is simply a great collection of innovative dance/rock music, and arguably New Order's best ever release.