Review: New Order – ‘Lost Sirens’

New Order's long-awaited studio return is a measured effort rife with 80s nostalgia.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Lost Sirens is not a new New Order album, at least not in the traditional sense. These are leftover tracks from the recording sessions that resulted in 2005’s Waiting For The Sirens’ Call. The idea was to keep these songs on ice and then, after tour, write a few new jams and put out another record. In 2006 New Order called it a day, then bassist Peter Hook took his bitter exit from the band. Side Bernard Sumner and side Peter Hook exchanged barbs, especially after original keyboardist Gillian Gilbert inspired New Order to tour again without involving Hook.

Copyright battles and rights to this mix or that one ensued for years but, finally, the band reached an accord and these last six original tunes with Hook (or Hooky as he’s also known) on bass can see the light of day. With so much history, is Lost Sirens a good note for one of the most influential bands of the last two decades to go out on? Sure, as long as you understand what Lost Sirens is. This is not the far-reaching music of New Order’s heyday when they took multiple influences from the dance world and its culture and blended them into their own sound. Lost Sirens has little to do with the future of dance music, so don’t expect it. However, these are solid songs harkening back to New Order’s 80’s keyboard and guitars era.

“I’ll Stay With You” opens Lost Sirens with a full on Bernard Sumner attack. Lightly strummed guitars are dipped deeply into a bucket of pop syrup while Sumner sings in his elated-but-wistful way. All the elements of “I’ll Stay With You” considered, it could have easily been a cut from Sumner’s side project Electronica. “Sugarcane” is a bounce song. Guitars and keyboards coexist in such a way that live, when this jam drops, the entire crowd will start to bounce. Helping with that is Stephen Morris, one of the best and most underrated drummers of all time. “Sugarcane” is all about Sumner singing in the catchiest way he can, it has sing along written all over it.

Sadly but understandably, Peter Hook’s bass is somewhat downplayed on Lost Sirens. At first you don’t notice it simply because the album is so guitar centered. It’s not until the song  “California Grass” creeps up that you realize how essential Hooky is to what New Order do. The verse is peppered by Sumner’s guitar work, but it’s the bass that hold everything together. When the chorus opens up to soar, it’s the bass that holds strong so the other elements can sound so light and airy. No ordinary bass player can do that. Years of playing the higher notes, plus his joy of working fretless, has given Peter Hook a signature sound that is unmistakably his.

“I’ve Got A Feeling” is another spot where Hooky’s bass is central to what’s going on. The groove here is all bass. Everything surrounding that groove is inflections of light guitar lines and danceable drums. Even when the guitars open up a bit, “I’ve Got A Feeling” still relies on the bass to hold that steady New Order groove.  The two best tracks on Lost Sirens and they both have Hooky’s fingerprints all over them. Coincidence? I think not! Everything on Lost Sirens isn’t aces. “I Told You So” is a wasted cut and a bad way to end the record. I was also unimpressed with the remix of “Hellbent” simply because the original is so untouchable.

Eight songs clocking in at just under 40 minutes and only seven of them original. In the hands of most bands this would be a tragic cash shill, with New Order it’s a gentle reminder of why they are such an important band but also why they might need to go gracefully into that good night. Currently the band is touring, sans Hooky, and mostly playing the hits. If this is to be the future of New Order then Lost Sirens is an easy last album that neither inspires the fan nor insults them.