This week’s collection of demos is from a band I haven’t written about nearly as much as I should have to date, New Order. In 1988 they were reworking Blue Monday and at the very beginning of the recording process for what would eventually become one of their strongest albums Technique.
Most of the tracks here are less than a minute long, so it’s going to be pretty difficult to write this review, but let’s see how we get on.
Firstly Loveless is pleasant, although a little chaotic, and then comes Mr. Disco, which is a strong one-minute instrumental. Given some of the dirges that New Order had released prior to this point, it’s a very strong start for one of the better tracks on Technique. This isn’t true for Don’t Do It, which is dreadful.
The original demo of Run is a total surprise, as despite becoming a decent track on Technique there is literally nothing to it. Unknown #1 is pretty good, as is the initial demo of Best & Marsh, which would ultimately become the b-side to Round and Round. MTO is a bit of drumming and synth chirping, and not a lot else, but it’s pretty pleasant.
Unknown #2 is more of a jam than anything, and is nice enough, but feels a little bit empty. Then there’s more jamming on the Guitar and Bass Checks. Finally, now, having dealt with ten tracks flying thick and fast towards us, we get a bit of a breather with the demo of Dream Attack, clocking in at nearly six minutes. Finally, I can type something before the next track starts!
Dream Attack is actually my favourite track on Technique, but in its demo form it’s rather dull – Peter Hook does his normal bass thing and there isn’t an awful lot of melody otherwise. This bootleg presents snippets of another three versions, but somehow none really take it to the levels of the final album version. It actually sounds as though they spent most of their studio time just jamming until they found something that worked, which is admirable, but would go some way towards explaining why their albums are so variable. In particular, some of Hooky’s attempts to come up with a bass line were pretty awful, it would seem.
A more advanced version of Mr. Disco comes next, now with a vocal, but no Hooky bass line, so he’s there doing the dun-dada-dun bass thing again over the top, trying to find something that works. The next three tracks – Low-fi Hooky Riffing, Hi-fi Hooky Riffing, and More Hi-fi Hooky Riffing are more of the same, but without any obvious backing track this time, and Hooky Bass (All the Way) is… well, another Peter Hook bass line.
We then get a 21-minute recording, completely out of the blue: Low-volume Ambient Recording (Blue Monday Playback Plus Bass Synth to “Much Too Old”). Quite why the people who compiled the bootleg decided to include this is beyond me, and if you can make it through more than a minute without wanting to succumb to a fatal dose of wow and flutter then you’re a stronger person than me.
After this a couple more Hooky Bass tracks fail to regain the right sort of momentum, but Blue Monday ’88 (No Samples) (Cut) is a lot better. As you will know, New Order decided to reissue Blue Monday five years on, sped up, and with a load of silly samples added to spoil the moody nature of the original as much as possible. Without the samples, it’s still a bit too fast, but it’s a lot better than the finished version.
The totally chaotic ‘rehearsal takes’ of Guilty Partner, Don’t Do It and Unknown #2 follow, just about toeing the line between listenable and dreadful, and then the final four tracks are all progressions of Blue Monday ’88 – without samples or the intro; without samples; with some samples; and then with some different samples.
Whoever compiled this collection really ruined it with the twenty-minute studio recording in the middle, but there’s some good stuff on here, and it’s good to hear the works-in-progress which New Order were working on just a year or two before Factory Records collapsed.