Signs for the first New Order album, following their enforced transformation from Joy Division, were good, as they had already released a couple of great singles. Perhaps partly weighed down by the expectation and partly still traumatised by losing their close friend and band member so recently, they put out the dense and almost foreboding ‘Movement’ in November 1981. It didn’t contain those singles and didn’t quite turn out to be the classic that was maybe expected.
The following May, though, and the real transformation began with the veritable dance juggernaut that was ‘Temptation’ blowing away the cobwebs. The sound was much more synth-based, and certainly more dance floor orientated. This direction continued ten months later, (are you keeping up? We are in March 1983 now), with the legendary ‘Blue Monday’ ; famously the best-selling 12″ single of all time. In fact, there wasn’t even a 7″ version at that time, which was very unusual.
And so to Power, Corruption & Lies in May 1983. The wonderful Peter Saville-designed sleeve, (featuring a reproduction of the painting ‘A Basket Of Roses’ by Henri Fantin-Latour), contained no track list on the outer or inner covers; the song titles were only displayed in a spiral on the labels of the vinyl.
The public lapped it up…but for many, there was a slight problem. No ‘Blue Monday’. The casual record buyer could be forgiven for expecting a massive hit from two months previous to be on the accompanying album, whereas the Joy Division/ New Order/Factory connoisseur would have (correctly) assumed the exact opposite. It is amusing to note that many of the next pressings of the record contained a sticker stating DOES NOT CONTAIN BLUE MONDAY.
Power, Corruption & Lies, though, is a fascinating document of this period of New Order. ‘Age Of Consent’ is a perfect opener, the distinctive high-pitched/low-slung Hooky bass the first thing that the listener hears. A sprightly, upbeat track, it is quite a shock when the downbeat ‘We All Stand’ follows in its wake, a gloom-laden gem that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on The Cure‘s goth classic Faith. It is one of the albums most enduring tracks though, and must have floored those waiting patiently for ‘Blue Monday’. There is, incidentally, an excellent, slightly faster version of it on The Peel Sessions, which actually contains a house-y piano way, way ahead of its time.
‘The Village’ puts the tempo right back up and is in a similar vein to ‘Temptation’ (which, of course, is also not included), before the album’s centrepiece, the incredible ‘5-8-6’ makes its appearance. An elongated intro has squelchy synths and what sounds like a mixture of real and programmed drums, before two minutes in, it morphs into another dance monster, and is probably the most ‘Blue Monday’-ish track on Power, Corruption & Lies. At 7 mins 31 seconds long, however, it sounds brief in comparison to a full-length version, titled ‘Video 5-8-6’, which was finally released as a single (!) in 1997 and clocks in at a whopping 22 mins 25 seconds.
Side Two begins with the majestic wonder of ‘Your Silent Face’; a sequenced electronica treat that remains a favourite for many New Order fans to this day. When, at the 2002 Finsbury Park show, the audience were given a choice of what they wanted as an encore, ‘Your Silent Face’ or potential career nadir ‘Rock The Shack’, the reaction was literally unanimous. You can probably guess which way it went.
The darkest tracks on the album come next, ”Ultraviolence’, which is the most Movement-like moment here, and ‘Ecstasy’, a largely instrumental track that is arguably the weakest on the album. OK, it is definitely the weakest track on the album.
Another huge fan favourite, ‘Leave Me Alone” closes the album. It is a masterclass in understated simplicity, with not a note more than it needs. It is also a very upbeat end to the record, and contains one of Bernard Sumner’s most engaging guitar lines and vocals.
Power, Corruption & Lies was bookended by two huge hits (the other one being ‘Confusion’ later that summer), the album is produced by the band themselves, an arrangement that would continue in their following albums.
Power, Corruption & Lies is the album that saw New Order take a huge step to the next level. It still sounds so strong today, some 33 years later.