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New Order's facility for writing the perfect edgy but danceable pop song made them more of a singles than an albums band. In retrospect the monumental singles compilation "Substance 1987" is the only really essential document of their career up to the late 1980s. But out of their four albums from this time "Low Life" holds up the strongest, for its seamless fusion of chiming guitars and disco beats. It's worth getting for one of New Order's finest pieces of disco euphoria, the soaring slap-bass fuelled "Perfect Kiss". Although it's one of those songs you just don't want to end, so the 12 inch version found on "Substance" might be more satisfying. At least the frog-noises middle-eight was kept in.
There's a good selection of tunes, and the album's short but perfectly balanced, with intense guitar melting pots like "Sunrise" mingling with hand-waving indie dance. The catchy but oddly-expressed "Love Vigilantes" was a peculiar choice for a cover by folk-rockers Oyster Band, but both versions work. "This Time of Night" combines a gnawingly repetitive keyboard hook and Sumner's off-key singing to suitably creepy effect. The melancholy instrumental "Elegia" shows how close New Order sometimes got to their goth cousins The Cure, showcasing Peter Hook's lyrical six-string bass melodies. On "Subculture" those disco basslines and keyboards are out in force again for another fine single.
Easily recommended in preference to "Brotherhood".
March 27, 2005