Those of us who take the time to break out dusted turntables—and the records spun on said turntables—are transported back to an age where hairspray, dance and parachute pants ruled the earth. One such group that exploded in the UK was New Order, armed with what has been lauded as one of the band’s finest albums. Even today, Power, Corruption & Lies can be seen as the group’s declaration of independence from both Joy Division and vocalist Ian Curtis, whose untimely death had cast a shadow on their past work. Together, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert all found their “voice” with this haunting sophomore effort.
As a shattered band striving to find its footing, Power, Corruption & Lies removes the weighty pressure of the group’s first LP, Movement. The result is a lighter record tonally. Three years had passed since the group’s formation in the wake of Curtis’ passing, which allowed plenty of time for the band, and the songs, to breathe. The murky, depressive slant and gothic-washed electronics of Movement are fully fleshed out here; they are subtle and intentional. For once, New Order was no longer lurking in the shadow of Joy Division. New Order had truly attained its own identity.
The synth-driven direction of Movement moves into a more fluid affair here. Guitars are stripped down to better accompany melodies, as percussion gave way to denser electronics. This opened the floodgates for countless imitators, but none would achieve the heartfelt sincerity of what New Order had accomplished with Power.
Much of the record’s credit is owed to Sumner, who took over vocal responsibilities after Curtis’ death. It was his determination that kept the band intact and what made this sophomore release so focused. New Order holds sole production credit for the band’s work, and it shows, as Power comes across as a truly collaborative meditation. It is this Power that fans recognize today; even nonalbum single “Blue Monday,” an outtake from the album’s sessions, has since become a part of the new-wave canon.
With 3 million units sold, “Blue Monday” continues to hold the record for best-selling 12-inch single of all time. And despite its success, commercialization was something that the group avoided. Original UK copies of the record didn’t feature the names of the band or album. Instead, the group had chosen to represent such details through a block of coded colors on the corner of the cover, which could then be deciphered by a key on the sleeve’s reverse.
Even today, Power, Corruption & Lies can be seen as the group’s declaration of independence, from both Joy Division and vocalist Ian Curtis, whose untimely death had cast a shadow on its past work.
The album’s lyricism provides a beautifully poetic contrast to its gutsy, dance floor-ready sound. It helps that Sumner, no stranger to innovation, sings out of tune and makes it work. “On a thousand islands in the sea/I see a thousand people just like me,” he slurs.
The gorgeous album opener “Age of Consent” reels the listener in with an unmistakably catchy bass riff, populated with a heavenly daunting array of synths and tribal drum rhythms. “The Village” builds upon the same basic structures and transposes them into a compelling dance-hall knockout. Tracks such as “586,” which would be afterthoughts by lesser artists, provide the listener with intriguing forays into stuttered electronics.
It’s unmistakable that “586,” “Ultraviolence” and “The Village” remain grade-A, untouchable slabs of alternative dance music. From the albums onset (“Age of Consent”) to its bitter closer (“Leave Me Alone”), New Order created a landmark album for its time. Revivals of their sound are still taking place today, as a new generation of bands influenced by New Order emerge in the indie-sphere. Power, Corruption & Lies was a tremendous leap forward for the boys who never thought they’d step out from Joy Division’s shadow, and in doing so, it created one of the most affecting and influential alternative albums of its era.
New Order – Power, Corruption & Lies tracklist:
- “Age of Consent”
- “We All Stand”
- “The Village”
- “Your Silent Face”
- “Leave Me Alone”