In With The New And Old

Singles compilations are always a strange commodity as they tend to represent more of a selection of commercially viable tracks picked by a record company, rather than a reflection of a band's true talent and variety of material. Mind you if New Order's singles take up 2 CDs by themselves, an accurate Best Of might end up being an even more colossal affair (like the 2002's 4 disc box set 'Retro') and these are 31 mighty tracks.

'Ceremony' was New Order's first single, as a Joy Division cover it marks the transition from Ian Curtis' dark electro rockers to a band so great that they could almost be a British, and certainly a Mancunian institution. 'Procession' brims with a far more upbeat and driving force that propels the track with crisp percussion and snappy chanting, as well as an awesome guitar solo that thrusts the heady pace right into your face. 'Everything's Gone Green' was the B-side to 'Procession' and provided a contrast in its experimental mix of frenzied guitars and synthesizers, with the guitar singing the tune itself and making the vocals slightly redundant when they kick in after a minute or so with a hallucinogenic duality created by overlapping voices. Our Hacienda heroes then brought out 'Temptation' with a very much more minimalist atmosphere made up for by percussion that sounded like someone being punched, although I find this really stops me from being able to concentrate on the chirpy tune. You have to love a band that isn't afraid to experiment.

Of course 'Blue Monday' was naturally going to be included on this CD, although it was sadly missing for New Order's Glastonbury 2005 performance, but it graces the listener not once but twice in this collection. The original 'Blue Monday' features a more protracted instrumental introduction before those robotic but mesmeric vocals kick in, but it's not all that vastly different from the later 1988 version, which finally allowed it to gain the recognition it deserved. The stony monotony of the vocals even during the final line "Tell me how does it feel when your heart grows cold?" is something that really makes the track pack an emotional punch.

'Confusion' is a mass of trendy 80s echoing vocals with twinkling keyboards and tinny female backing singers, 'Thieves Like Us' is another slightly sugary tune that falls pretty much on the dangerous side of the pop/rock divide, but as this is a journey we have to sit out such slightly turbulent tunes to experience the electronic leviathan we know as New Order today. 'Perfect Kiss' simmers beautifully through its shimmering story that dances over the ubiquitous funky synth backing, while 'Subculture' is a catchy disco floorfiller with darker undertones, "In the end you will submit, it's got to hurt a little bit".

'True Faith' is one of those songs that are universally known, even by those who can't quite pinpoint it. Its flowing vocals and memorable lyrics underpinned by that hypnotic percussive beat and trippy chords. 'Bizarre Love Triangle' twinkles effortlessly with swirling synths and airy chorussed vocal effects while '1963' brews darkly with effervescene like a malicious disco classic. The synthesis of New Order's post-Joy Division sound, and their new, far more upbeat line of fire, 'Touched By The Hand Of God' is feisty, ruminating and forceful in its vocals but it still has a beat so catchy that it's a wonder they've not immunised against it yet.

Whatever happened to the 80s? Well they continued to burn strong in New Order's music, as this second CD proves. 'Fine Time' has an electric passion that writhes through the vocals and explosive backing, while 'Round And Round' is a carousel of twinkling aural delight. 'Run' is more laidback and features guitars; yes wondrous guitars making their way into the New Order aesthetic! More guitars still on 'Regret' a beautifully warm tune that reverberates around your head in indie perfection. 'Ruined In A Day' ruminates with melancholy vibes chiming throughout. The less overt electronica in these last few songs is very noticeable and quite welcome; everything is far more subtle and atmospheric.

'World In Motion' is of course, the football song, although I have to admit I find it a little cringe worthy, and I'm sure I'm not alone. 'Spooky' is a supremely funky tune mixed with haunting vocals and it leads into the teardrop of lethal emotion and melody that is 'Crystal', one of those tunes that can't help but stop you in your tracks as the all-consuming chorus crashes over you like a tidal wave of aural delight. As a mark of New Order's influence in 2005, they managed to call upon Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters to provide lucid backing vocals on the groovy pop melody that is 'Jetstream'. And then we come to the end of our reminiscent tour with New Order's future single, 'Turn', a smooth and beautiful tune mostly based on melodic guitars; a stark contrast from the brash synths of' 'Procession', but both are still fine songs and exemplary of their eras.

'Singles' does pretty much what you'd expect, it's a compendium of some of the finest songs from a band intricately linked with one of the most fascinating music scenes Britain has ever seen. A band that can still command the public's interest after 20 years is pretty rare, especially one who still retain that 'cool' ethos that got them slots at this year's festivals and well deserved praise from the 'kids' of today.