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New Order’s ‘Lost Sirens’ evident of exhaustion

Submitted by Liz Fox on February 6, 2013 – 2:44 pmNo Comment

New Order in their prime (L-R): Gillian Gilbert, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris. Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone

As a batch of outtakes taken from New Order’s previous album, “Lost Sirens” hardly constitutes a honest release. True, it supposedly exists as the final album that includes the characteristic sounds of bassist Peter Hook, and passionate members of the band’s fanbase might view it as another ceremonious offering from the dance-floor demigods. But while these eight tracks may have initially held potential for better work, the end result was a lazy, lackluster production used only to fill a fractious eight-year period of debate and unproductivity.

To be fair, New Order’s existence has rendered itself unstable since their heyday. Hook and guitarist/vocalist Bernard Sumner have kept up a notorious lovers’ quarrel for much of their partnership, which began in 1977 with the Manchester post-punk outfit Joy Division. The diva-like behavior has resulted in several break-ups and licensing battles since the band’s first hiatus in 1993, and Hook has now taken to performing full Joy Division albums with a back-up band. The remaining line-up — now consisting of Sumner, guitarist Phil Cunningham and husband-wife duo Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert — insists on staggering forward with mediocre releases. “Lost Sirens,” though not a proper album, is one such example.

New Order has always been an act with sales and reputation built on singles. That’s not to say the entireties of “Low-Life” or “Power, Corruption & Lies” deserve the brush-off, but it’s easy to see why the majority of their albums are driven by one or two signature tracks. Surprisingly enough, “Lost Sirens” is not home to this part of their repertoire. Even “Hellbent,” a song that made it onto the 2011 Joy Division/New Order compilation “Total,” doesn’t catch on as a standout piece of work. Rather, most of the songs jumble together into one pathetic ode to staying relevant and hanging on for dear life.

The saddest part of “Lost Sirens” — and most of New Order’s output from the last two decades — is its obvious lack of effort. In its prime, the group, especially Morris and Gilbert, took pride in experimentation, tweaking with homemade equipment and integrating everything from acid house to then-infantile alternative rock. But recent albums (the worst of which was “Lost Sirens’” predecessor) and constant touring do little aside from rehashing glory days and as a result, these outtakes are evidence of pure stagnancy and indicate little room for growth for a band that’s been remarkably unstable.

As a New Order devotee, I refuse to believe this material serves as the group’s swan song. None of it is intolerable or atrocious, but it certainly treads on bland territory with its vapid songwriting and cliche beats. But as a final product, “Lost Sirens” isn’t a death sentence; it’s a testament of exhaustion by a band who, with several decades and multiple personnel changes under their belt, can simply do better — so, so much better.

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