New Order were in their prime in the 1980s.
During this decade they came out with five cracking albums.
The first was Movement in 1981 and the last was T.E.C.H.N.I.Q.U.E. in 1989.
In addition to the five albums, they released a compilation of their work, in 1987, called Substance 1987.
There is also a rather nifty John Peel session, available on YouTube, recorded in 1984. It features a dub track called Turn the Heater On.
T.E.C.H.N.I.Q.U.E. was New Order’s last great album.
In 1990 the band scored a commercial hit with the release of World In Motion. The song had a strong New Order melody and remains the most avant-guard football song ever written.
However World In Motion taken together with the band’s next album Republic, released in 1993, was a watershed in the band’s musical output.
From this point on the emotional colour of Sumner’s lyrics and singing was less tortured and distressed. His lyrics and singing became phlegmatic and calm.
The first five albums often had Sumner singing in the background, almost struggling to be heard. It gave one the impression of trying to remember a dream or trying to understand some feelings that one was finding it difficult to understand. It felt deep, and opened up a universe of feelings and ideas to explore.
In contrast, output in the 90s had Sumner’s singing comfortably nested at the heart of the band’s songs. Now Sumner appeared wisened, settled and smugly knowing. Done with the torments of youth he was a lot less interesting.
And you could say the same type of thing about the band’s music. It retained some elements from the 80s but was set within a formulaic structure, a kind of ready mix made prepared for commercial electronic pop and indie.
The band no longer created musical epics, which travelled and evolved. It was if they had decided to take their foot off the experimental pedal, and churn out a more radio friendly sound.
They were creating an impression of what music is commonly understood to sound and feel like. They were no longer exploring and expanding the depths of possibility.
Perhaps experimentation had become too exhausting. Perhaps, no longer tormented by growing pains, the band no longer found they had the fire to fuel such sounds.