New Order’s recent outings have been spotty as of late. Still, expectation and speculation are rife for the band’s latest offering, Lost Sirens, a mini album made up of eight tracks condemned to seven years on ice. While the latest offering doesn’t find the UK outfit at the top of their game, it does play host to some infectious songs, overshadowing its parent album, 2005’s Waiting for the Sirens’ Call. The tracks, which the band emphasizes were originally slated for a double album, make for an intriguing enough anthology on their own. What’s more, this is likely to be the final release to feature Peter Hook’s hallmark bass work, something that won’t sit well with diehard fans.
The album sets off to a fervent start with “I’ll Stay With You”, which boasts a savvy combination of Bernard Sumner’s shiny guitar work and Hook’s bass lines. Sadly, though, first impressions don’t last. The sprightly “Sugarcane”, although full of pulsating and pounding bass and synthesizer, feels overly commercial, inspiring nothing so much as indifference.
An uphill struggle to live up to the opening track prevails for most of the first half of the album. There’s a persistent, nagging desire for songs to kick in, something that unfortunately rarely happens. Sumner also falls into a pitfall he has often been criticized for: He prefers a rhyme scheme over meaningful lyrics. A prime example is “Californian Grass” which, despite some sublime instrumentation, features overly simple lyrics. That may well have been acceptable for a young, puerile band back in the ’80s, but here, “We can stop at a grocery store / Buy a drink for a few dollars more” comes across as stilted.
Later, the band shifts up a gear with sleazier, rawer sounds on tracks like “Hellbent” and “Shake it Up”, the latter of which does exactly as it says on the tin. Standout tracks like these contribute some welcome angst to the band’s recent shiny pop sound. Sporadic guitar squalls, efficient piano, and pounding techno beats help to enhance the latter half of the album’s appeal, creating an infectious urgency. The more upbeat tracks, like the aforementioned “Shake It Up”, are reminiscent of Clint Mansell’s former band, Pop Will Eat Itself, with a dash of Sumner’s past side project, Electronic.
Many will be wary of the band’s choice to include a reworked track from Waiting for the Siren’s Call, but album closer “I Told You So” is more impressive than one might assume. Whoever said remakes never live up to the original couldn’t be farther from the truth, as the track overshadows the previous effort in every possible way, rousing the listener with a driving drum and building up to Sumner’s hypnotic, powerful guitar climax.
New Order’s latest addition, bassist Tom Chapman, previously heard on a number of Bad Lieutenant tracks, is now a firmly integrated member of the band, and word has it that work will begin on a new album later this year. Hook’s signature sound plays a crucial role in the successful result on Lost Signals, as has often been the case, and Chapman is first to admit the pressure of stepping into such prestigious boots. In a recent interview, Hook claimed that Chapman mimes along to the bass parts when the band is playing live, crowning him “the Milli Vanilli of bass.”
Whether Hook speaks words of truth or of resent remains to be seen, but his comments certainly fuel expectations for this year’s follow-up album. For the time being, Lost Sirens may not “stay with you ‘til Hell freezes over,” but long-standing fans are sure to rejoice in this welcome blast from the past.
Essential Tracks: “I’ll Stay With You”, “Hellbent”, and “Shake It Up”