Get Ready starts off with a bit of misdirection: the opening moments of “Crystal” are filled with piano notes played over a synth-flourish and a wailing woman’s voice. Then, just when you might be wondering whether New Order have finally fallen into the digital abyss, Bernard Sumner kicks in with some of his crunchiest guitar ever, serving notice that Get Ready is actually their most straight-out rock album in 20 years. True, only “60 Miles an Hour” sounds like a candidate for New Order’s pantheon of hallowed singles; still, Get Ready might be the group’s most consistent album from top to bottom.
Look, it’s actually pretty simple: New Order forged a pioneering sound at the beginning of the ’80s, smack in the middle of synth-pop dance beats and post-punk hard rock that no one had ever heard before. Everything they’ve done since has been variations on that sound. Get Ready is no exception: it’s all about Bernard Sumner’s churning guitar and plaintive vocals, Stephen Morris’ precise beats, Gillian Gilbert’s atmospheric synth work, and Peter Hook’s upfront melodies on bass. Other bands have done this, of course, before and since, but nobody has ever straddled the line like New Order. These days the fun is in watching how they stitch it all together, as in “Primitive Notion,” leading off with a bass riff that anchors the song over and over again as the other instruments drop in and out of the mix, fighting it for prominence. In the end, Hook wins, but everybody else took a helluva shot.
Even better is “Slow Jam,” which is pretty much all about an endlessly repeating guitar riff that intensifies on the chorus and drops out to catch its breath for a second before the next verse. When Sumner sings, “Can’t get enough of this,” he’s obviously talking about the guitar parts he’s come up with. Not that it matters what he’s singing about: New Order have always been about the grooves, the melodies, and the interplay between the instruments. So listening to the build-up at the beginning of a song like “Someone Like You” — echoing keyboards, driving drums, rumbling bass, and finally guitar and more guitar — is far more rewarding than noticing that a sample couplet goes “You’re everything to me/ The sweetest symphony.”
New Order get the fact that there’s meaning in the pure physicality and drive of their music. Certainly when the three men were in Joy Division, the words meant more — but look where that got them. So when, at the end of Get Ready, they chant “Good times around the corner” over and over again, suddenly — inadvertently, of course — it pretty much sums up everything they’re about.
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As published on Neumu on December 11, 2001