CD Review of Brotherhood (Collector’s Edition) by New Order
Recommended if you like
Joy Division, The Cure,
Cabaret Voltaire
Label
Warner Bros./Rhino
New Order: Brotherhood
(Collector’s Edition)

Reviewed by David Medsker

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L
istening to Brotherhood, New Order’s fourth album, one gets the sense that the band questioned their instincts, or at the very least, felt compelled to prove to the world that, to quote the Arctic Monkeys, whatever you say we are, that’s what we’re not. How else do you explain a band turning its back at the tremendous inroads they made in embracing their inner danceteria types? Of course, Shep Pettibone would undo this alleged error in judgment before all was said and done, but never mind that for now: New Order wanted to rock, damn it, and while those urges produced some wonderful moments, they picked a curious time to do it.

There isn’t a person alive that bought Brotherhood upon its release without first seeing the video for the instant-classic lead single "Bizarre Love Triangle," which sported a remix edit by the aforementioned Pettibone. Shep’s mix was right on par with the trail the band blazed with its previous singles "Shellshock," "Sub-culture" and "The Perfect Kiss," but is super-widescreen technicolor dance pop compared to the version that graced Brotherhood’s second side. And that second side is markedly different than Brotherhood’s first side. The first album is rock, rock, rock, from the speaker-jumping guitar that opens "Weirdo" to the splendid chorus of "Broken Promise." The more machine-driven tracks dominate the album’s second half, from the angst-ridden pop of "Bizarre Love Triangle" to the shimmering, mid-tempo "All Day Long," which disguises a rather biting lyric about child abuse.

There is nothing particularly wrong with Brotherhood – it’s just not terribly adventurous. It’s no surprise that Qwest only released one single from the album, because the other songs, while fine, don’t hold a candle to "Bizarre Love Triangle." One major improvement that Brotherhood boasts over New Order’s previous work, though, is Bernard Sumner’s vocal work. The liner notes make a mention of how John Robie would push Barney to sing in key – which explains why the songs Robie remixed for the band included brand-new vocal tracks – and the influence of those sessions is readily apparent.

Brotherhood feels like the album that should have followed Power, Corruption and Lies rather than serve as successor to Low-life. Flip those two albums chronologically, and you can draw a nearly straight line in the band’s evolution from post-punk survivors to techno-pop gods. Of course, New Order was never one to do what was expected of them, which makes Brotherhood the perfect follow-up to Low-life. Perfect in the band’s eyes, at least. From here, however, it feels like a slight regression.

New Order

Collector’s Edition Bonus Disc: In a bit of revisionist history, Rhino has tacked "State of the Nation" onto the end of Brotherhood, even though it was released as its own single in the UK and as the B-side to "Bizarre Love Triangle" in the US. (John Robie’s remix of "State of the Nation," meanwhile, is on the bonus disc for Low-life. Go figure.) The bonus disc to Brotherhood, though, is nearly worth its weight in gold. The original 12" mixes to "Bizarre Love Triangle," "True Faith," "Touched by the Hand of God" and "Blue Monday ‘88" (incorrectly credited to Quincy Jones as the remixer; John "Tokes" Potoker was in fact the man responsible) are all here, along with "True Faith" B-side "1963," an alternate mix of Brotherhood track "Angel Dust" titled "Evil Dust," and "Beach Buggy," the instrumental mix of "Blue Monday ’88." The most inexplicable inclusion is easily the "True Dub" mix of "True Faith," which was mixed in 1994 and is completely out of sync with everything else here. Why they included this over Pettibone’s own dub mix of the song is a mystery.

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