Its beauty was that no one saw it coming. Coming off an eight-year hiatus, New
Order’s 2001 album Get Ready was a glorious blindside, filled with the hardest
guitars, the meanest drumming and the best overall batch of songs the band had
cooked up since 1985’s Low-Life. Where the majority of their peers had
completely forgotten how to make a decent song, let alone an album, New Order
looked like they had been preparing for Get Ready from the very beginning.
Which begs the first of many questions about their latest, Waiting for the
Sirens’ Call. First and foremost, what the hell happened? Where Get Ready
overflowed with restless energy, Sirens’ Call is cautious, something New Order
has made a point of avoiding at all costs. Surely, the departure of keyboardist
Gillian Gilbert, who left the band after the Get Ready tour, hasn’t disrupted
the songwriting chemistry that much…has it?
To be fair, the album isn’t awful. Opening track “Who’s Joe” has all of the
trademarks of a New Order song; icy synth intro, rubbery Peter Hook bass line,
laconic Bernard Sumner vocal. The two subsequent tracks, “Hey Now What You
Doing” and the title track, follow the same formula. But something is missing:
there is no sense of adventure, the kind of thing that would inspire them to,
say, insert a sample of a lamb into a machine-gun drum track. In fact, the
wildest idea here may be the ragga-drenched “I Told You So,” simply because it’s
the one time where the band dares to try something different.
The most glaring aspect of Waiting for the Sirens’ Call is its utter lack of a
killer single. The first single, “Krafty,” tries to compete, but isn’t even
playing the same sport that “Regret,” “Crystal,” “Bizarre Love Triangle” and
“Round & Round” are playing. “Jetstream,” a duet with Scissor Sisters’ Ana
Matronic, fares better, but lacks punch. The album’s saving grace is the closer,
“Working Overtime,” which has both the sass and the dance floor draw that fans
of the band have come to expect. Of course, it also comes equipped with the
worst lyrics Sumner’s ever put to paper.
It is far too early to start declaring the death of New Order. They’ve survived
worse (grunge, baggy, ska, nü metal, Frente), and it’s not as though Waiting for
the Sirens’ Call is the only mediocre album they’ve ever done. It is, however,
the most conservative album they’ve ever done. In fact, their 1993 album
Republic has never looked better than it does right now.