What is it about New Order’s music that keeps it sounding contemporary? We’ve all been listening to it for so long, and their signature sound is so unmistakeable. When are we gonna get bored? Perhaps they keep us interested because they’ve got no need to rush. After all, their presence in musical history was assured many records ago. In fact, Waiting for the Sirens’ Call is actually album number eight.
And whether Sirens’ Call represents their greatest work to date or not (indeed it probably doesn’t), it does feel remarkably fresh. It seems that New Order can’t help but be relevant, and considering that they’re still making what is essentially dance music, the most ageist of all musical umbrellas, it’s an even greater feat.
The album starts strongly as it builds the opening track, Who’s Joe?, from orchestral pads and twinkling guitar notes. Sumner’s vocal starts almost aggressively, before relaxing back to that familiarly open quality. Second track, Hey Now What You Doing?, is driven by grungy guitars before the familiar electronica sweep in for the verse. Musically it’s an extremely likeable track, and keeps the whole thing moving in the right direction, but lyrically it lets itself down. Now, part of the attraction of New Order is the relative simplicity of their lyrics, but “You had the brightest future, writing songs on your computer” is just a little too off-putting for this reviewer. As is the chorus: “You’ve got to hold your head up high, you know it’s not too late to try.” A simple line conveyed in the right way can transcend itself; indeed that’s where the power of the greatest pop lies, but here the delivery here is just too flat.
By contrast, the simple slash slightly naïve lyrics of first single, Krafty, work on a different level entirely. Written down, lines like “You’ve gotta look at life the way it outta be, looking at the stars from underneath a tree”, don’t feel particularly weighty. But in the context of a beautiful song like Krafty, which is half hyperactive beat, and half melancholy reflection, they become something much more pertinent.
Sirens’ Call feels somewhere in between Electronic (listen to the opening of I Told You So), and Republic-era New Order. On the whole this is an album imbued with positivity. Nearly all of the tracks have more than enough musically to bring them through resolutely, and despite the case mentioned, it remains hard not to love Sumner’s lyricism. Even harder not to love his voice, which has still got that magic.
The more overt dancefloor numbers, such as Morning Night And Day, mostly work extremely well. They’re very sure of themselves, even with Hook’s bass held back from the front line and only used as a not-so-secret-weapon. It’s probably a coincidence, but Dracula’s Castle, where that high pitched (and low hung) bass is used much more overtly, is perhaps the weakest track overall.
Jetstream is interesting, if not one for the hardcore fans, featuring as it does, Ana Matronic from Scissor Sisters. Indeed, at times it sounds more like Daft Punk, both in terms of delivery and sentiment, but it’s actually a great dancefloor track and may well be earmarked as a future single.
So, however they keep managing to do it, Waiting for the Sirens’ Call is (mostly) a brilliant pop record, if not their most brilliant. Perhaps new recruit, Phil Cunningham, has helped them focus their efforts, but the chemistry that worked all those years ago is most definitely still here, and still strong. You can’t listen to a track like Guilt is a Useless Emotion and not get that same warm shiver you used to. Different songs for different times maybe, but great rock/dance/pop can never die. It just gets reincarnated.
Waiting for the Sirens’ Call (2005)
Genre: Alternative Pop
Record Label: London Records