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Music DVD Review: The New Basic Collection For All New Order Fans

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Being a New Order fan through the past two decades has sometimes seemed like volunteering for perpetual rounds of ecstasy followed quickly by disappointment. Ecstasy at the times when the band uncorks yet another brilliant song and disappointment at the endless rounds of false starts to recordings, slapdash compilations, album filler, and notorious onstage antics complete with the ever-present rumors of permanent breakups. However, it doesn’t take long viewing the brilliant new Item DVD collection, put together by Rhino, to be once again reassured it is all abundantly worth it.

The new collection is a 2 DVD set. One disc is an expanded version of a 1994 documentary on the band called The New Order Story and the second is a disc filled with 24 New Order videos including 2 new videos created specifically for this release. For those who remain unaware, New Order is the band that arose out of the ashes of the legendary British post punk band Joy Division upon the suicide of lead vocalist Ian Curtis in 1980. New Order have been at the forefront of electronic pop and dance music for over 20 years. They have delivered hits such as “True Faith,” “Bizarre Love Triangle,” and “Blue Monday,” a song that Q magazine list in its top 10 list of songs that “changed the world.” Earlier this year “Krafty,” the lead single from their album Waiting For the Sirens Call, reached the pop top 10 in the UK and #2 on the U.S. dance music chart, and New Order looked more relevant than ever as critically acclaimed groups like the Killers, Bravery, and Bloc Party openly acknowledged their musical debts to New Order.

The documentary The New Order Story is revealing and quite enjoyable to watch. It has been padded from its 1994 release to include more interview and live footage. For those who have never seen live footage of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, the film included here is a revelation. His loss was truly a tragic one in the history of popular music. Extensive interviews with band members, Factory Records exec. Tony Wilson, and the band’s manager Rob Gretton, give a penetrating look into the band’s history. The emergence of lead vocalist Bernard Sumner from a shy, buried-in-the-mix singer to idiosyncratic, but effective, frontman is but one of many fascinating stories explored here. The documentary also touches on New Order’s relationship to the development of techno and hip hop music in New York. Some may be surprised to see Quincy Jones interviewed in relation to New Order’s signing to his Qwest label for release of their early material in the U.S. Viewing this documentary is 2 hours well spent.

The music video disc of the Item collection is filled with treasures. It is a comprehensive look at the band’s videos from their first video “Confusion” to videos released earlier this year. “Confusion” is an early 80’s historical gem as it features footage shot inside the legendary FunHouse club in New York City and film of breakbeat production legend Arthur Baker in the studio. The memorable images tumble one after another through the videos including the band’s big U.S. breakthrough with “True Faith” and its mesmerizing characters in large, round, rubbery outfits. There are fascinating extras as well. Two new videos were filmed and included for 2 of New Order’s earliest tracks – “Ceremony” and “Temptation.” You can certainly get a chuckle as well out of watching New Order on the beach complete with Baywatch star David Hasselhoff in an alternate video for “Regret.”

Some of the most amazing content on the disc of music videos is present in the music videos where art and music truly converge. New Order has worked with some of the 20th century’s top visual artists to produce music videos. Robert Frank, the photographer and creator of the landmark book The Americans, directs and stars in the video for “Run.” Robert Longo, an acclaimed painter and printmaker, put together the tumble of images that make up the video for “Bizarre Love Triangle,” including the amazing blue tinted video of the individual band members that kick off the song. William Wegman, beloved photographer of Weimaraner dogs, fills the video for “Blue Monday ’88” with a sense of whimsy. The convergence of art and music, a key element of the work of New Order, continues through the videos released earlier this year. The video for “Krafty,” directed by Sweden’s Johan Renck, has the effect of a mini motion picture in a tale of young love and exhilaration. Perhaps the best word for the effect of watching the music video collection is exhilaration.

If you are already a New Order fan, the addition of Item to your collection is an absolute must, and you will not be disappointed. If you are a newcomer to the work of New Order, this collection is possibly an even better starting point than any of the various musical compilations. Nearly 25 years into the history of the band, the powerful story behind the group and the lingering images associated with their songs are as important as the music.

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About Bill Lamb

  • *lol* Nicely put, Bob.

    I have pretty sketchy memories of the accompanying videos (apart from the two men banging each other on the head for ‘True Faith’ for some reason) but the music…

    Quite simply, a seminal group who took the electronica that was coming out from the likes of Kraftwerk and overlaid it with a tarnished, dirty, dark indie soul – without them, you could argue that the whole club & indie culture today wouldn’t exist (or at the very least would be a far more 1-dimensional beast).

    Still astounds me that ‘Blue Monday’ is 25 years old…


  • I have this theory that all smart, hip people from my generation who’ve heard them like New Order.

    Either you love them or you don’t get them, which says everything about you.

    That is all.