New Order's recent releases (and by recent I mean those since 2015's Music Complete) haven't always convinced me. It sounds like New Order but with all the edges sanded off and smoothed out, the tension and pioneering spirit of their greatest art lost after so long in the saddle. I suppose it's to be expected- no one can keep their edge for that long, unreliable technology and stubborn independence gets traded in for gear that works and financial security. At some point in the process (I'm dating this to the recording of Republic in 1993 and Rob Gretton's absence onwards) there was a power struggle that was won by Bernard. He took control of the creative process and song writing, the recording and production. Peter Hook's departure is well documented and there's no need to dig over that again but his bass was one of, if not the, key sounds of New Order- the bass guitar as lead instrument, the riffs and runs played through that chorus pedal and those amps. At some point Bernard decided he wanted a bass player who followed the guitarist and who just played the root notes.
Thankfully Hooky pops up here and there from time to time, bassist for hire, his Viking bass sound immediately identifiable on two superb singles by The Liminanas (Garden Of Love and The Gift). Last year he slung the bass around on a single with Damon Albarn's Gorillaz, part of their monthly 2020 digital release campaign. Aries, Hooky's growl at the start and then the bass runs throughout, beamed in seemingly straight from New Order's Cheetham Hill rehearsal studio in 1986, seem to contain the spirit of New Order as much, if not more, than anything on Music Complete.
Ten years previously Damon, Jamie Hewlett and the four unreal members of Gorillaz released Plastic Beach, a guest star heavy concept album featuring turns from Lou Reed, Bobby Womack, Mos Def, De La Soul, Snoop Dogg, Gruff Rhys and another hero of the Manchester's punk scene, the late Mark E Smith.
'Where's north from here?'