First posted on Mark Is Cranky:
The Cure. Soft Cell. Gary Numan. Pet Shop Boys. The Human League. Erasure. Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark.
These were bands that, from the birth of 'New Wave' and beyond, I never really 'got'. This fact would come up in conversations with friends who were fans and the responses mostly gravitated toward a variation on "Oh...a little too dark for you?"
No. It's a little too nothing for me. Honestly, where some hear moodiness, gloom, melancholy, brooding, etc., I hear...well, nothing. There's no emotion there for me. The singers' voices transmit absolutely no emotional content. The words 'bored' or maybe 'disinterested' spring to mind. Can this have been their intent? I doubt it. For a while I began to wonder if maybe I was engaging in some musical xenophobia, what with all of those British accents (sorry Mr. Numan). That was ruled out though, as folks like Billy Bragg, Pete Townshend, Elvis Costello and Richard Thompson are fine counterexamples. Maybe it was the combination of the voices and the electronic nature of the music. That sort of works, except that there have been some recent (and non-electronic) groups that produce the emotional flat-line: Coldplay, Oasis, Morrisey.
Apparently, the question of why I like something is just as tough to answer as the opposite case.
So...when the latest New Order disc shows up, my first thought was that I'd probably give it a listen, confirm that things hadn't changed since the 80's (both for the band and my ears), and then file it away under 'N'.
Well, that's not what happened. One thing that may have changed is New Order's use of the electric guitar. Yes, a tasty guitar phrase or chord can make all the difference. In this case, it seems to add a pile of humanity to Waiting For The Sirens' Call.
Maybe I ignored the guitar on 'old' New Order, but here there is guitar all over the place. By 'all over the place', I don't mean Steve Vai-isms (many a flame-war has occurred over who is the 'best' guitarist, but the shredding style does nothing for me). Instead, it's the well-placed, chimey arpeggio (the verses of opening track "Who's Joe?", "Turn"), the chunky rhythm pattern ("Hey Now What You Doing"), the winding melody line that ghosts the vocals (the title track). It's not until I reach "Guilt Is A Useless Emotion" that things run a little flat (and a little more electronic). Still, redemption happens on "Working Overtime", which brings it with some seriously fun rhythm swagger.
Waiting For The Sirens' Call isn't going to make me reconsider my low rating of New Order's early era, but I'm certainly looking at this band in a new light. It'll be interesting to read reviews of New Order's fans who loved 'em way back when. Some folks have no patience for change. Others know that you can't be wearin' the same wardrobe for your entire life. Well...I mean, you can, but what fun would that be?