NO Heroic Measures
Overcoming adversity is a hallmark of memorable athletic performances. Might the same apply to musicians and some of the albums they deliver? At first glance, it seems New Order had much to overcome on their latest effort, Waiting for the Sirens’ Call.Musically, it has less going for it than 2001’s criminally undervalued Get Ready. Bernard Sumner’s songwriting is more ponderous than ever, a potential death sentence even for an album hovering around 130 BPM. Twelve years removed from the last New Order single with a crunchy Sumner guitar riff, and 130 BPM starts to drone, too.
The shortcomings are glaring on “Turn” and “Dracula’s Castle,” their horribly generic lyrics and instrumentation destined for the end credits of movies. “I Told You So” demands a remix enhancing its superb dub reggae underpinnings and removing Sumner’s vocal miasma.
Then, however, “Jetstream” uses planes and flight as gleefully inappropriate metaphors for love, with the Scissor Sisters’ Ana Matronic adding some sexual tension. Sumner also reconfigures Jimi Hendrix’ “Hey Joe” in a jangly two-song suite, “Who’s Joe?” and “Hey Now What You Doing.”
And as long as they stay catchy, Phil Cunningham’s synths and Peter Hook’s bass can remain the basis for New Order’s best hooks, found here on “Krafty,” “Morning Night and Day,” and “Guilt is a Useless Emotion” — “Blue Monday” inverted towards optimism.
This is not New Order limping onto the pitch to save Manchester United or anything. Waiting for the Sirens’ Call is far from a strong addition to their catalog. Making it as good as it is, that is the achievement here.