New Order - Power, Corruption and Lies (and sneezes and chat up lines)
New Order have reissued Power, Corruption and Lies, their second album from 1983. It is probably my favourite album ever, though their next album, Lowlife, occasionally reclaims this title. Both have been firmly in my top ten for the last 35+ years.
The reissue is beautiful (and eye-wateringly expensive). But it’s an album I adore so totally worth it. I remember clear as day buying it.
I was 15 in 1986 and returning a Siouxsie & The Banshees album on cassette I had bought - weirdly the cassette had the right labels, but wrong Banshees album. Our Price in Bexleyheath didn’t have another copy, so the guy asked if I wanted something else.
PC&L was on my list of albums I wanted to buy (yes, I had a list…of course I had a list…). I had read about New Order in Smash Hits (come on, I was 15…) and had been impressed about them soldiering on after the death of their lead singer in Joy Division - I was VERY earnest at this stage of my life. I had already bought Blue Monday and was hooked, playing it every day for the next five years or so.
I took the vinyl up to the counter and made my exchange - I swung with wild abandon between formats at this stage; my approach was similar to Boris Johnson and principles - whatever was to hand and worked…
So vinyl in hand, I headed back to Dartford. It was spring and I was about to turn 16. I seem to recall I was wearing a pink shirt, light blue pleated trousers, white socks and black karate slippers - my look was somewhat “confused”. I can only describe my hair as dangerously skirting with mullet status.
The bus stop was outside a hairdressers, which had a very cool Siouxsie Sioux lookalike working there. I had a crush on her, obvs - far from an exclusive status, I had a crush on any woman I saw at that point. I took a note of the phone number, returning a few weeks later and getting my hair dyed to look like David Sylvian…see below for the distressing results…
I digress, back to the bus stop. There was just me and a very pretty girl. With heroic bravery, I attempted to start a conversation by asking if she liked New Order….I never found out because as the words left my lips, I started to sneeze. Now, if you know me, you know I have a loud sneeze. The sort of sneeze that in an open plan office of 100 people gets everyone to stop and look around - not my best trait.
This sneeze was loud. But it was not alone. I basically stood in front of a girl making the most rudimentary attempts to chat her up, whilst sneezing repeatedly. It would be no exaggeration to say I sneezed about 40 plus times. Understandably the girl was simultaneously amused, bemused and a little scared (this would not be the last time that my attempts to chat girls up would have this effect - fortunately, the manic sneezing has abeyed).
I gave up, red-faced and got on the 96 back to Dartford, accepting that my chat up skills needed some work. A lot of work. But at least I had a cool record.
I can’t really remember playing PC&L for the first time, but I know it didn’t leave my turntable for some time, unless it was replaced by my Blue Monday 12 inch single. I was hooked.
I still love it now - Age Of Consent and The Village are life affirming and joyous (no wonder they confused the fuck out of their hard core Joy Division fans when they released this). 5.8.6 was my go-to song for some time, while Your Silent Face remains one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard (basically NO doing Kraftwerk better than their German heroes).
Over the years, I have seen New Order play four of its tracks (seeing them play Ultraviolence in Manchester in 2017 was the highlight of a gig FULL of highlights). And I have seen Hooky play the whole thing, which was celebratory and wonderful.
Leave Me Alone, its closing track, is its perfect moment, the most gentle song about loneliness you will ever hear. It is exquisite and I am fairly sure its title summed up what was going through bus stop girl’s head as a mad, red-faced, semi-mulleted teenager sneezed repeatedly at her…
Anyway, check it out - it may sound dated in places, but it’s easy to forget that this was pioneering stuff in 1983. And it was New Order becoming their own band and stepping out of the (g)looming shadows of Joy Division.
Finally, the album was so good I completely forgot to brush up those chat up lines and “Hello, do you like New Order?” remained my opening gambit for many years. Thank God I found a woman who likes them too, and isn’t scared of my sneezes…well, at least not anymore…and even likes my PC&L Doc Martens. I was never going to find that in Bexleyheath...