As one of the first bands to discover that dance music and guitars could work together in perfect harmony, Factory Records’ flagship act New Order were arguably one of the most innovative and influential acts of the late 80s/early 90s. But a series of underwhelming albums, not to mention the publicly acrimonious departure of bassist Peter Hook, since the turn of the century has slightly weakened their visionary reputation.
Originally intended for a quick follow-up to 2005’s Waiting For The Sirens Call but shelved when the group split for a second time two years later, there’s an understandable concern, therefore, that eight-track collection, Lost Sirens, may be the latest release to screw up their legacy. However, rather unexpectedly, it’s more likely to have the reverse effect.
Admittedly, there might not be anything quite as majestic as “True Faith” or as ground-breaking as “Blue Monday” here, but there are several reminders of just how brilliantly New Order can blur the indie-pop/electro boundaries. Examples include the opener “I’ll Stay With You,” which kicks off with a flourish of bubbling synths before bursting into one of their most triumphant and punchy Britpop anthems in nearly two decades; and “Sugarcane,” one of many tracks to rally against the notion of celebrity culture, which echoes the Balearic output of their Technique heyday with its addictive disco licks and acidic techno riffs.
But Lost Sirens isn’t just a New Order-by-numbers affair. “Recoil” buries Hook’s iconic low-slung basslines in amongst a lounge-bar friendly fusion of flamenco guitars, dreamy strings and elegant piano keys; whilst a remix of predecessor album track “I Told You So” transforms the bouncy ska-pop original into a brooding and atmospheric slice of drone-rock inspired by The Velvet Underground.
Even with its brief track-listing, the album isn’t completely devoid of filler. “Shake It Up” sounds more like an outtake from U2’s Zooropa than a locked away treasure from New Order’s own vaults, and the chaotic meeting of acid-house and Americana of “Hellbent” already appeared on 2011’s Joy Division/New Order compilation, Total.
All told, Lost Sirens is an encouraging listen which suggests that New Order, now back as a fully-functioning band (minus Hook, of course), aren’t ready to be consigned to the nostalgia circuit just yet.