If Power, Corruption & Lies showcased a band that had figured out their totally unique sound, the follow-up, 1985’s Low-Life, was the sound of that band alternately celebrating and deconstructing that sound.
So while singles “Sub-Culture” and “The Perfect Kiss” (those fucking bullfrogs) were pretty much what you expected, other songs, like the abstract “Elegia,” the goth “Sunrise” and the opening track, “Love Vigilantes” came from left field.
And in the case of “Love Vigilantes,” that left field was country music. At least according to both Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook, though mostly because he’s singing in character, and the lyrics tell an actual story . . . with a twist.
Oh I’ve just come
From the land of the sun
From a war that must be won
In the name of truth
With our soldiers so brave
Your freedom we will save
With our rifles and grenades
And some help from God
With Stephen Morris playing a straight rock beat, Sumner nearly quoting “Love Me Do” on melodica, and jangling the melody line on acoustic guitar while Hook holds down the fort on bass, Sumner’s soldier character is on pretty solid ground on the typically melodic sing-along chorus.
I want to see my family
My wife and child waiting for me
I’ve got to go home
I’ve been so alone, you see
In the second verse, Sumner’s character finds out that he’s going to be able to go home and do just that, see his family. And with a twangy guitar and Sumner singing “doo do do” to the melody of the chorus, the soldier gets to his doorstep and walks straight into the twist.
When I walked through the door
My wife she lay upon the floor
And with tears her eyes were sore
I did not know why
Then I looked into her hand
And I saw the telegram
That said that I was a brave, brave man
But that I was dead
You see, — SPOILER ALERT — he was dead all along!!
I’m not going to lie: this is all a bit silly, and why the song is called “Love Vigilantes” is anyone’s guess, but the music — as usual — was incredibly compelling, especially at the end, where Sumner does a scraping chordal solo to take “Love Vigilantes” to its ending.
“Love Vigilantes” was never a single, but like “Age of Consent,” it was certainly played on KFSR — and I have to assume a lot of other college / alt-rock stations of the 1980s — as if it was a single. Lord knows that by that point, I was all in on the New Order songs that I loved, even if I couldn’t necessarily get with the ones I didn’t love, meaning that from the start I was making New Order best-of mixtapes to capture highs like this song.
“Love Vigilantes” live in 1985 (muddy sound)
“Love Vigilantes” live at Glastonbury, 2005
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