NewOrder Story (DVD)
By David Chiu
New Order can be characterized be a series of contradictions in its history: beginning as the Manchester dark post-punk group Joy Division fronted by the mesmerizing Ian Curtis; then after his suicide in 1980, the surviving band members reemerged as a hugely commercially successful (and equally influential) electronic pop band New Order. A group in its earlier incarnation once voiced despair and anguish in songs such as “Atmosphere” and “Transmission” would later pen a hit anthem for the British World Cup Soccer team. The biggest one, however, might be seeing David Hasselhoff in his Baywatch trunks as the group performs the song “Regret” on a beach. You had no idea that was coming.
And yet, unlike other pop acts of its time in the ‘80s, New Order is still somewhat of an enigma, whether it is by accident or calculated design. Even the DVD liner notes describe this documentary as “a business plan, a quiz show, (and) a sheer glossy spectacle…”
Still, in addition to featuring groundbreaking videos of big hits (“Blue Monday,” “Bizarre Love Triangle,” “Perfect Kiss,” and “True Faith”) NewOrder Story does provide a fascinating glimpse into the group’s history and how it reinvented itself after a major tragedy and the mindset of the individual members (Despite the guarded persona, they are just like you and I folks). It is something to note how the group evolved musically—an example is an early performance of Temptation from the early ‘80s and a reprise of that song a decade later at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Unlike other music documentaries, NewOrder Story features for the most part full-musical performances so that the interviews with members Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert, and commentary by Factory Records owner Tony Wilson, producer Arthur Baker, Bono, and the legendary Quincy Jones, doesn’t impede the music’s flow. It is also important to know that this was documentary was from 1993; the band went on hiatus until 2001 when it recorded “Get Ready” featuring only Sumner, Hook, and Morris.
The one thing that comes across clear in NewOrder Story is the influence of the late Ian Curtis. Early on, the documentary features performances by Joy Division, and in the end credits is a haunting black and white video of “Atmosphere.” New Order succeeded in spades artistically and lucratively, but it still proudly acknowledges its dark past.