Writing Songs on Your Computer

Writing Songs on Your Computer

New Order maintains legacy new CD produced in creative burst likely to yield a 2006 follow-up

Judging by the sold-out concert at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom this past Cinco de Mayo, New Order’s popularity is on solid footing.

After 28 years together, these Manchester darlings who rocked the ‘80s as Joy Division have found the secret to success––consistency. Their new release, “Waiting for the Sirens’ Call,” serves up 11 tracks of the unmistakable dance/electro/rock/punk sound that makes New Order so singular.

The team of Stephen Morris, Peter “Hooky” Hook, Bernard Sumner and his wife Gillian Gilbert manage to release a new album every two or three years that simultaneously offers evidence of new influences while carefully maintaining the band’s legacy. “Sirens’” is no exception. The album opens with “Who’s Joe?” a sad tale of a man with “eyes like an old wounded soldier” who cries tears lost to the wind because his heart has been broken by a woman who “said you had it coming/ that you were no good from the start.”

The heavy, resonant keyboard sound is backed by a solid guitar and uplifted by oddly happy chimes. And while Summer, a founding member of Joy Division, said their second track, “Hey Now What You Doing” feels fresh, and “it doesn’t remind me of anything we’ve done before,” the radio-ready hit sounds to me as much a New Order track as anything I’ve ever heard. The quirky lyrics include the line, “You had the brightest future/ writing songs on your computer. But you couldn’t walk the extra mile, and now you’re life is running wild.” The chorus is a total Gen-X war cry: “You got to hold your head up high/ you know it’s not too late to try/ You’ve got to lift that heavy load/ you’ve got to get back in control.”

The title track—Sumner’s favorite—is a typical New Order success story, with a beautiful melding of guitars and keyboards, and a hot bass line. Whether they are singing about love or death, the message is clear: “I really hurt you, I nearly gave it all away/ I got it all wrong, ‘Cause you were not the wrong one/ And I don’t know where to turn when you’re gone.”

The industrial sound of the track “Krafty” is a tech-heavy hit, and “I Told You So” has a hard, almost disco-meets-techno sound. “Morning Night and Day” is one of the best picks on “Waiting for the Sirens’ Call,” a total rock experience. And “Jetstream,” with its whistling intro and FX beats, is a white-hot dance track only made better by the addition of vocals by Scissor Sisters diva Ana Matronic. She harmonizes, “We’re so high, I’m watching all the clouds drift by below me/We should try, It’s been so long since I made you cry.”

The band teamed up with talented producers for this project, including Stephen Street, Stuart Price, and John Leckie. Still, New Order almost seems to both defy outside influence and ridicule imitation, without becoming a parody of themselves.

According to Phil Cunningham, the band’s tour guitarist who contributed lyrics on the new album, the guys behind New Order are consciously aware of their unique sound. Said Cunningham, “Sometimes they reject stuff because it sounds too ‘New Ordery.’ It’s the heart and the soul of New Order that’s important. If something sounds like pastiche, that’s not good enough.”

Pastiche be damned. “Waiting for the Sirens’ Call,” released on April 26, is already a new classic. The single “Krafty” rose nine spots this week to number 26 on the Billboard Club Play charts.

The band’s press notes say the album came together in “a sustained burst of song-writing” over a seven-month period.

“We usually do just enough for an album, ten songs and it’s done,” said Summer. “The seven tracks left of ‘Sirens’’ are so strong that they are likely to form the basis of a future LP.”

According to updates on the band’s Web site, the new, untitled 2006 release is already on deck—good news for New Order fans everywhere.