1983 was the year that my love of all things electropop began to be infiltrated by what would later become labelled "indie" or "alternative" music - Cocteau Twins, The Smiths, early Sisters of Mercy, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Echo and the Bunnymen and so on. I'd been aware of Joy Division in 1979 or 1980 from listening to John Peel with my older brother. I would also regularly 'borrow' a tape of his, a selection of various tracks from Peel's programmes which had "Transmission", "Atmosphere" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart" on it alongside music by The Fall, Big in Japan, Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Ruts, The Only Ones and other such luminaries, that I would surreptitiously play when he was out of the house.
New Order, formed by three-quarters of Joy Division after vocalist Ian Curtis' suicide in 1980, and later joined by keyboard player and occasional guitarist Gillian Gilbert, had debuted in 1981 with "Ceremony", a re-recorded version of a Joy Division song. The album "Movement", another single "Procession" and a 12" EP "Everything's Gone Green" followed later the same year, an astounding output for any band, not least one so recently bereaved and bereft. The earliest of these releases sounded (quite reasonably) not unlike Joy Division and very much like a band trying to find their feet. With each release, though, it was evident that here was a band growing in confidence and self belief, embracing new sounds and new technologies and striving for something altogether different. In 1982 New Order released the pivotal single/12" EP "Temptation" which saw them confidently stepping out of Joy Division's shadow and onto the dancefloor, a move further cemented a year later with the immense and ubiquitous "Blue Monday".
New Order were a band I was destined to love, uniting electronic music and indie guitar pop. Although I was aware of New Order from the outset, I was introduced to them properly in 1983 by a friend's older brother who, noting my enthusiasm (and pestering), recorded me a tape with an imported New Order EP he'd got hold of, "1981-Factus 8-1982", on one side, and their newly-released second album "Power, Corruption & Lies" on the other. The imported EP collected together the second single "Procession", the 12" mix of "Everything's Gone Green" and one of its accompanying tracks "Mesh", and the longer 12" version of "Temptation" and its flip side "Hurt". These tracks represent a bridge between the post-Joy Division sound of their earlier releases and the more Kraftwerk and New York electro influenced tracks that garnered the band considerable acclaim in later years. This is what I still find fascinating about these tracks. It's the sound of a band wrestling with technology, struggling to find new ways of making music that's all their own and, with each release, increasingly succeeding. It's a transitional record, for sure, but one on which the journey is as fascinating as the destination. And it's even got its own great Peter Saville sleeve.
As an aside to this, I listened to the aforementioned tape for many years before actually buying a copy of "Power, Corruption & Lies". My friend's brother had unknowingly confused the two sides, thus starting the tape with Side 2 of the album. To this day, it sounds wrong if I don't start the album with "Your Silent Face" and end it with "5-8-6". This makes a certain amount of sense too, with "5-8-6" pointing the way forward to "Blue Monday". Fortunately I own it on vinyl, so no programming of a CD player is required. For anyone reading who owns the album, I suggest you give it a go.