Power, Corruption & Lies

Power, Corruption & Lies

At the time of its release in 1983, the oft-repeated refrain that greeted New Order’s Power, Corruption and Lies was that the band had moved beyond the dour 1970s post-punk of its debut album, Movement. That album had been recorded in a grief-stricken hangover after the death by suicide of Ian Curtis, who’d fronted Joy Division—the group whose surviving members would form New Order. Power, Corruption and Lies, then, was treated by observers as a more optimistic effort, full of the bright synth-pop that would define the band going forward. But press play on the opening track, “Age of Consent,” and you’ll hear one of Peter Hook’s signature chorus-laden melodic basslines, followed by a snappy hi-hat pattern that drummer Stephen Morris would admit he recycled from Joy Division’s biggest hit, “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” The song takes the best parts of Joy Division’s and gives them a polish; the only hint that it’s from the 1980s comes courtesy of Gillian Gilbert’s acutely artificial synth strings. Still, if Power, Corruption and Lies finds the members of New Order grappling with their past, at least they’re taking confident steps into the future. This included parting ways with longtime producer Martin Hannett, whose drug use had become untenable. Without the iconoclastic studio wizard, Morris and Gilbert delved into the new electronics at the time—music machines with comically bold names, like Oberheim DMX, E-mu Emulator, LinnDrum, and Korg Digital Delay. Those devices opened up a new avenue for writing and recording via extended electronic jamming sessions. It also meant running the risk of losing days’ worth of work when the unreliable machines conked out. This instability prevented reluctant singer Bernard Sumner from delving into the electronics the way he would in later years. But his evolving guitar tone—which on Power, Corruption and Lies included more shining chords and delicately played notes—would be prevalent on songs like “The Village” and “Your Silent Face,” both of which also find Sumner unapologetically embracing his tenor rather than tentatively simulating Curtis’ iconic baritone. Not found on Power, Corruption and Lies—at least in its canonical vinyl form—is “Blue Monday,” which New Order had earlier released as a single. The dancefloor classic, with its completely electronic palette and pulsing beat, was so popular, the song was later added to the cassette and CD versions of Power, Corruption and Lies. It was a sample of the revisionist history that would help define the ethos of New Order moving forward.

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