But behold, the bands of death shall be broken, and the Son reigneth, and hath power over the dead; therefore, He bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead.
Less than a year after the death of Ian Curtis and, almost inevitably, Joy Division, Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris and Peter Hook, along with the new addition of Gillian Gilbert, were ready to release their first album as New Order. It would prove to be both a hymn to their collective past as well as a manifesto for their future.
In the year that “Movement” announced the creative resurrection of those left behind by Curtis’s suicide I was also born again. As an eight year old I was deemed, by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), to have reached the age of accountability. I was old enough to “choose” to enter into the waters of baptism, to have my sins washed away (nobody ever explained what those sins might be) and to emerge spotless before God.
At the moment when Joy Division were destined to take the steps that would have taken them from post-punk, indier than thou, underground shakers and onto the playlists of American college rock stations and then, quite possibly, deliver the sort of success that made REM, for example, the biggest band in the world…it was all snatched away. The weight of the pain that Curtis was carrying became too much and he left. Left everything. Left his wife. Left his daughter. Left his friends. Left this world.
What resurrection could there be for Joy Division?
Instead something bolder and braver.
A new group born of the ashes of the old group.
Following the inquest into Curtis’s suicide the band found themselves in the pub along with other faces from Factory where Rob Gretton asked what they were going to do. Almost instantly they decided that they would carry on. Over the following days Peter Hook came up with the bass line for “Dreams Never End” on his six string bass and the band reconvened to start rehearsing and writing together, sharing a space with fellow Factory act, A Certain Ratio. The tour that Joy Division were due to have undertaken, booked by the inimitable Ruth Polsky, was now undertaken by New Order. After one gig, where the crowd spent most of the night calling out Joy Division titles, the band then had all of their equipment stolen. From trauma to disaster. What this did provide was a blank sheet for the band to write their new story on.
It wasn’t just the players who were familiar, Martin Hannett was still in the production seat, although it would be fair to say that relationships between he and the band were not particularly warm. More importantly Peter Saville was still playing a central role, his artwork for the album (based on a Futurist poster by Italian sculptor and graphic designer, Fortunato Depero) was elegant, stark, simple and pure. Fact.50 should have been a big deal, and yet…
When people talk about “Movement” now, forty years after its original release, it isn’t with a huge amount of fondness, it has its fans but it continues to have its critics. At the time of its release the reception was…cool. It reached number thirty in the charts, critics were not moved by it and nor were the public. It seemed, maybe still seems, that this was never going to be anything other than an ellipsis in the story.
“I’ve not listened to “Movement” in ages…it was awful when you listen to everybody else but I thought it was absolutely fantastic” (Gillian Morris, Virgin Radio, April 2019)
Speaking with Max Dax of Electronic Beats in 2012 Bernard Sumner recalled, “We spent six months in the studio, experimenting in an attempt to find our new sound. I tried to sing the songs we’d worked on but it all felt like Joy Division without Ian…then (on a US tour) we started to go out a lot and to hang out in clubs…we didn’t only have a wonderful time, we also found an integral element of our future sound by being exposed to New York club music.” (Electronic Beats, 01/09/2012).
That new sound flashes, sporadically, across “Movement”, but it would take the arrival of “Blue Monday” in 1983 for it to cement itself in their music.
And yet “Movement” has found a place in the New Order story as something other than just a footnote and, more importantly, it continues to inspire. Paul Scott, Cue Dot Records supremo, talks about the album with love and reverence, “It represents a band in metamorphosis, but not just musically, idealistically too. For me, nowhere on the album is this better represented than with “Senses”. There are nods to the industrial,, melancholic sound of the past and then a morphing into a funkier, more rhythmic future. I feel they literally transform from Joy Division to New Order right there, in that moment.”
New artists in electronic music also hold the album in high esteem, here is Martin from Nostalgia Deathstar; “I think it’s fair to say that “Movement” is our favourite New Order album. It is a beautifully contradictory album, at once powerful and frail, haunting and visceral. It’s a work that celebrates its own mistakes, while tentatively pushing at its own limitations. The while thing is an exploration and a far greater leap from Joy Division that it is usually credited for. “Dreams Never End” feels like the weight of their recent past is forcing down them, but the outcome is something tender and hopeful. We tried to echo the melody on our own track “The Better”, because we wanted to capture and essence of hope from desperation.”
Another one of the most exciting, and interesting, new bands on the electro scene, Lines of Flight also have a great deal of love for “Movement”. Helen Whale from the band talked about her favourite moment from the album with me, “Truth” is the song I like most. It’s pleasingly simple but also carries a weight; a brooding soundscape, created from two chords, muffled background percussion bringing depth and those dark synths wrestle with strangled guitars. The lyrics are shot through with a bleak emotion too.”
Now, forty years after its release, I find that it is “Movement” that I turn to more than any other New Order album. It doesn’t contain my favourite New Order moment (that prize goes to “Power Corruption and Lies” with “Age of Consent”) but its mood, the atmosphere it creates and the way it moves me all seem utterly perfect for the times we find ourselves in.
Maybe that’s just me.
I can’t listen to it without thinking about the eight year old me. Oblivious to Joy Division and New Order. An innocent in a world full of sin. Wide eyed. But at the same time I was being told that I was unclean, that I needed baptism and to enter into covenants with a God to keep me safe and spotless. I had been born sick and commanded to be well. Those contradictions between childhood innocence and hope, and the idea of sin and eternal damnation are not dissimilar to the conflicts and contradictions at the heart of “Movement”. They were wide eyed, hopeful, poets and musicians before they found out, brutally, that the world is full of pain and heartache. Instead of God and baptism though, they took refuge in something more tangible, maybe more helpful, art.