My promise could be your fiend

One of my all-time favourite albums, Post-punk classic New Order album Movement, was not well-received by critics or the band when it was released in 1981. A “definite edition” boxed set including demos, live sets and extra tracks, to be released on April 5, looks to set the record straight.

Movement was sandwiched between another classic album, Joy Division’s Closer, the suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis and subsequent renaming of the band as New Order, and the new band’s massive future success with hit songs such as Blue Monday, True Faith, Round and Round and World in Motion.

It was recorded in the midst of souring unemployment, economic recession and serious rioting in Manchester’s Moss Side and Brixton, as well as in Liverpool, Birmingham and Leeds, and released ten days before Britain was hit by over 100 tornadoes in a single night.

The album still had one foot in the gloomy sound of Joy Division, which dealt with interior rather than exterior problems, but it also foreshadowed the more rhythmic and positive electro-pop sound of future New Order hits.

Dreams never end
This is exemplified by the first track, Dreams Never End, that bassist Peter Hook had written within days of Ian Curtis’ suicide. The title of the track itself is seemingly a kind of antidote to the Ian Curtis line in the Joy Division song Insight, “Guess your dreams always end.”

And the feeling of the song, with its powerful bass riff in the intro, is a strange combination of dignified sadness and more upbeat sensations.

The track was also one of only two songs to be sung by Hook (the other being Doubts Even Here) before the band decided that Bernard Sumner was to become the new singer.

Dreams Never End seemingly spoke about and to Ian Curtis, with lines such as “To be given your sight, hid in a long peaceful night,” and “Now I know what those hands would do.”

“I was looking for Ian to tell me if it was any good or not,” as Peter Hook later recollected of Dreams Never End.

ICB (a title that the band revealed many years later stood for “Ian Curtis buried”, although a friend of mine, who had introduced me to Joy Division and New Order, rather less solemnly referred to it as “Ian Curtis Boogie”), Chosen Time, with the line “What brought the last reaction I’ll never know,” and Senses, with “No reason ever was given,” also seemingly discussed Curtis’s death.

But other lines also pointed to a new beginning, especially the line “No looking back now, we’re pushing through” in Dreams Never End.

Subdued confusion
The band was not happy with the process of making the album with producer Martin Hannett or the end result, however.

“Making Movement was a struggle because we were in a subdued, sunken, sallow mood, understandably, with Ian’s death still so fresh in our minds … It felt as if we were still standing in the shadow of Joy Division … I don’t have fond memories of Movement, and it’s certainly far from my favourite New Order album,” Bernard Sumner later wrote in his autobiography Chapter and Verse.

“When we got to Movement, it was a real low point,” Peter Hook told journalist Mick Middles. “While the music was fantastic, we were lacking confidence on the lyrics and vocals. We were feeling our way in the dark,” he later wrote in his autobiography, Unknown Pleasures.

“Movement was horrible to make,” Stephen Morris told James Nice in Shadowplayers.

The Rolling Stone album guide calls the album “no fun” and “a well-meant bummer.” The NME later called Movement a transitional album, ranking it as New Order’s fifth best album, although this was far more positive than the magazine’s review upon the release of the album. Here Danny Baker called Movement “terrifically dull.”

And the album does indeed sound confused and lacking of conviction, and sometimes uneven and fragmented.

With Stephen Morris’s rumbling drums, panning from left to right and back again, Peter Hook’s melodic bass melodies, Gillian Gilbert’s simplistic and ominous keyboard riffs, Bernard Sumner’s layers of intermingled guitar sound, and producer Martin Hannett’s otherworldly soundscapes.

Or in the lyrics of songs like Denial (“Here I am in a house full of doors but no exits”) , Truth (“The noise that surrounds me, feels so loud in my head”), The Him (“Only when meanings have no reason, they’re taken beyond your sense of right”), and Dreams Never End (“My promise could be your fiend, a given end to your dreams, a simple movement or rhyme, could be the smallest of signs, we’ll never know what they are or care.”)

But for me, the nakedness and lack of confidence in the vocals, combined with the defiant sadness but also forward-looking hope of the atmospheric music, is part of what still makes Movement a great album 37 years on. And Dreams Never End and The Him two of my all-time favourite songs.

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