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Music / Substance (New Order Album)

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"I feel so extraordinary, something's got a hold on me..."
Substance is a compilation album by English Alternative Dance group New Order, released in 1987 through Factory Records in the UK and Qwest Records in the US. Released as a stopgap during the interim between 1986's Brotherhood and 1989's Technique, specifically while the band were touring North America, the album compiles every 12" single released by New Order from their formation up until around the first half of 1987 (plus "Procession", which is included on CD and cassette copies despite having only ever seen release as a 7" single).

As LP sales were gradually declining throughout the 80's, the album was New Order's first product to de-prioritize the format. Not only do the CD and cassette releases manage to squeeze all of the band's 12" singles onto one disc/tape, something that required two records for the LP release, but they also add in a second disc/tape devoted to the B-sides of the included singles and then some, with a few more B-sides present on cassette than on CD, though cassette releases in some countries only contained the first cassette. Due to the limited capacity of physical media back in the day, a good amount of tracks were edited down to fit a shorter length, with "Temptation" and "Confusion" being outright re-recorded from the ground-up. As non-album singles were still pretty common in the U.K. at the time, this was the first stateside appearance for many of these tracks, though some were previously released on the band's studio albums in substantially different forms, no pun intended.

In addition to collecting the band's 12" A-sides and B-sides, Substance also includes two new songs: "True Faith" and "1963", recorded specifically for this album and produced by Pet Shop Boys and Erasure collaborator Stephen Hague. The songs were released together as a 7" and 12" single earlier in 1987 to promote the album, with "True Faith" as the A-side and "1963" as the B-side. Because of this, the songs exist in a weird state of being both non-album singles (as they were never included on an actual studio album) and an album single (as they were written for and released to promote Substance). The single reached no. 4 on the British pop charts and proved to be their mainstream Breakthrough Hit in the U.S. (having already broken through on the dance charts with "Bizarre Love Triangle" the previous year), reaching the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time as the song's Surreal Music Video became an MTV hit. The hit single propelled the album to platinum status, the band's first certification in that country. In 1988, Quincy Jones, head of the band's American label, Qwest, remixed "Blue Monday" and released it as "Blue Monday 1988" to promote the compilation as well.

This album is also notable for being one of only a small amount officially released on Digital Audio Tape (DAT) during the format's limited commercial lifespan before the record industry's freakout over potential piracy applications relegated it to professional use; the DAT release is a double-tape package and features the exact same tracklist per tape as the CD version does per disc. The CD tracklist would also be recycled when the album belatedly hit streaming services in September of 2020, likely because, unlike the longer cassette release, it already had a usable digital master and didn't need to have any tracks re-transferred from archival tapes, assuming any could be found in a usable condition.

In 2023, New Order announced a remastered reissue of Substance on CD and vinyl, with the CD version including two bonus discs containing the previously cassette-exclusive tracks plus additional B-sides and archival live recordings.

Substance stands as a historically important entry in New Order's backlog. Because it contains nearly all of the band's singles between 1981 and 1987, it stands as an immediate presentation of the band's artistic evolution from a Post-Punk band in the shadow of Joy Division to the founders and codifiers of the Alternative Dance genre.

Tracklist (taken from the UK cassette version):

Tape One

Side One
  1. "Ceremony" (4:23)note 
  2. "Everything's Gone Green" (5:30)
  3. "Temptation (New Version)" (6:59)
  4. "Blue Monday" (7:29)
  5. "Confusion (New Version)" (4:43)
  6. "Thieves Like Us" (6:36)
  7. "Murder" (3:55)note 

Side Two

  1. "The Perfect Kiss" (8:46)note 
  2. "Sub-Culture" (4:48)
  3. "Shellshock" (6:28)
  4. "State of the Nation" (6:32)
  5. "Bizarre Love Triangle" (6:44)
  6. "True Faith" (5:55)

Tape Two

Side Three
  1. "In a Lonely Place" (6:16)
  2. "Procession" (4:27)
  3. "Mesh" (3:02)†note 
  4. "Cries and Whispers" (3:25)note 
  5. "Hurt" (6:58)
  6. "The Beach" (7:19)
  7. "Confusion (Instrumental)" (7:38)
  8. "Lonesome Tonight" (5:11)
  9. "Thieves Like Us (Instrumental)" (6:57)

Side Four

  1. "Kiss of Death" (7:02)
  2. "Dub-Vulture" (7:57)†
  3. "Shellcock" (7:35)†
  4. "Shame of the Nation" (7:54)
  5. "Bizarre Dub Triangle" (7:00)†
  6. "1963" (5:35)
  7. "True Dub" (10:41)†

†Exclusive to cassette releases

Principal members:

"It was January 1963, when Johnny came home with a trope for me":

  • Alternate Music Video: "Blue Monday" received three different videos over the years.
    • The first one, set to a truncated edit of the 1983 version that focuses on the lyrics, is a collage of stock images, false-color military clips, video game footage, and color blocks based on Peter Saville's color code for the single.
    • The second one is based on the 1988 mix's 7" edit, showcasing the band playing around with tennis balls and milk crates in an abstract room, intercut with balancing dogs, frog and baby toys, and marker animations.
    • The third one, released in 2020 to promote the Definitive Edition of Power, Corruption & Lies, is a Lyric Video based on the full 1983 version. This one sets the lyrics around an animation based on Peter Saville's color code.
  • Alternative Dance: The album acts as an abridged history of the genre's formation, focusing on the band that invented and helped codify it.
  • Anti-Love Song: Many of the songs qualify, particularly "Blue Monday" and "Bizarre Love Triangle". With "Temptation" it's not immediately obvious, with the lyrics reading closer to a silly love song and the music being very upbeat, but it counts given that Bernard Sumner stated during a 1984 live performance at the Zurich Volkshaus that the song is "a story about long lost love."
  • The Big Rotten Apple: The video for "Confusion" shows 1983 New York City in all its glory: subway cars scrawled with graffiti and a Times Square full of porno theaters.
  • The Bluebeard: Johnny is depicted as a reluctant one in "1963", shooting and killing his wife behind both tear and hate-filled eyes in order to elope with a woman he was having an affair with.
  • Book Ends: The video for "The Perfect Kiss" begins with close-ups of the band members glancing at one another and the camera crew in preparation for their performance. It ends again with close-ups of the band members glancing at one another and the camera crew, this time gauging each other's responses to the performance (as the video had been shot in one take).
  • Breather Episode: "Temptation" and "Thieves Like Us", two upbeat-sounding songs (albeit with Anti-Love Song lyrical themes) sandwiched within a tracklist whose music tends to be sardonic at best.
  • Call-Back: The cover art is a subtle one to Movement; both albums' cover art feature the band name, album title, and year of release in black text against a bright, single-color background.
  • Canon Immigrant: "Everything's Gone Green" was only ever given a Belgian and Japanese release officially, but was popular enough in the UK via import copies to peak at No. 3 on the UK Independent Singles Chartnote . Because of this, it's included on the A-sides portion of the compilation, which otherwise focuses on the band's British 12" releases.
  • Changed for the Video:
    • The music video for "The Perfect Kiss" features the band performing the 12" version of the song live in the studio, as they refused to lip-sync at the time.
    • The music video for "Bizarre Love Triangle" uses the 7" edit of the Shep Pettibone remix (included in full on 12" copies and on this compilation as the "Extended Dance Mix"), featuring a considerably different arrangement. The edit also double-tracks Bernard Sumner's vocals on the chorus, rather than backing them with synthesized vocals (as on the album) or leaving them alone (as on the 12" version). Additionally, the music video for "Bizarre Love Triangle" features a cut-out not present in the actual song where the music briefly stops in favor of an argument about reincarnation before immediately resuming afterwards.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: On the cassette release, the A-sides tape sports red labels while the B-sides tape sports blue ones, tying in with the red and blue floral patterns found in the liner notes.
  • Coolest Club Ever: The video for "Confusion" has shots of New York City's legendary Fun House club packed with dancers.
  • Distinct Double Album: In different forms on different formats.
    • On the LP version, which only contains the A-sides, disc one chronicles the band's non-album singles from 1981 to 1983, while disc two chronicles the singles from 1985 to 1987.
    • On cassette, sides one and three chronicles the band's A-sides and B-sides from 1981 to 1984, while sides two and four chronicle the band's A-sides and B-sides from 1985 to 1987.
    • On CD, DAT, and cassette, unit one chronicles A-sides, while unit two primarily chronicles B-sides. The only exceptions to this rule are "Procession" and "Murder", which are included on the B-side portion of the album despite having originally been released as A-sides; "Murder" though is properly placed among the A-sides on cassette copies.
  • Downer Beginning: The album opens with "Ceremony", a wistfully melancholic song that just so happened to be one of the last pieces Joy Division ever wrote and rehearsed before Ian Curtis' 1980 suicide. The B-side portion itself takes things up a notch, opening with "In a Lonely Place", which was written and rehearsed around the same time as "Ceremony" and is even bleaker in tone both musically and lyrically, among other things including a verse about a hanging that seems frighteningly prescient in light of Curtis' death by the same method.
  • Downer Ending: The CD, DAT, and digital versions of the album close out with "1963", a melancholic song about uxoricidenote .
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Implied in "Thieves Like Us", which juxtaposes lines about living "in the valleys" and "on the hills" with lines about living "on alcohol" and "on pills," indicating the narrator's preference for drinking during low points in his life and taking stimulant pills during the high points.
  • Drugs Are Bad: "True Faith" is sung from the perspective of a man spiraling down into drug addiction while trying to cope with the trauma of an abusive childhood.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Present on the A-sides and B-sides that predate "Temptation" and "Hurt". These songs were written prior to the band's Genre Shift to Alternative Dance, during a time when they were simply hoping to continue what they had started as Joy Division, only this time without the late Ian Curtis. The songs also have much more emphasis on Echoing Acoustics, due to them being produced by Joy Division producer Martin Hannett.
  • Epic Rocking: And how. Of the 29 tracks included on Substance, 18 of them exceed the 6-minute mark.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: "The Perfect Kiss" includes a sampled interlude of frog croaks of all things, simply because Stephen Morris loved the recording and jumped at the chance to make use of it, as well as synthesized sheep bleats at the end; the bleating sheep sample would become an aural Running Gag in future New Order songs.
  • Fading into the Next Song: Thanks to the compilation's sequencing and a lack of silence between the two tracks, "The Perfect Kiss" hard-cuts into "Sub-Culture".
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Sub-Culture" briefly plays a fake outro before immediately starting back up in the middle of a chorus, after which the actual ending occurs.
  • Flower Motifs: A false-color image of a blue chrysanthemum appears as a visual motif for the compilation, being included within the liner notes and on the promotional Qwest CD for "True Faith". A checkmark made of red flowers also appears in the liner notes, but is less prominent in use.
  • Gratuitous Panning:
    • The arpeggiated synth line throughout "Confusion" continuously pans across the left and right channels.
    • Done with the isolated backing vocals on the last reprise of the chorus of "Bizarre Love Triangle" (as well as on a large number of other parts on the latter).
    • "Kiss of Death" features synth hits at the end of the intro that jump between each channel; these same hits were also used in the Low-Life version of "The Perfect Kiss" (thanks to that one replacing the original intro with that of "Kiss of Death").
  • Greatest Hits Album: To an extent. While many of the band's best-known singles are included on Substance, the album does not aim to be a greatest hits album and is simply meant as a retrospective of the band's career via their single releases.
  • Idiosyncratic Cover Art:
    • While it's not visible on the outer sleeve, the inner sleeve on 12" copies of "True Faith" and the back cover on 7" ones feature a modified version of the Substance cover art with the text "SUBSTANCE 1987" changed to "TRUE FAITH 1963".
    • The original 12" releases of "Thieves Like Us" and "Murder" both feature similar covers that parody the 1807 board game The New and Fashionable Game of the Jew, replacing the titular antisemetic caricature with metaphysical paintings by Giorgio de Chirico.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: A repeated sample of a woman loudly moaning appears midway through "Kiss of Death", tying in with the line from "The Perfect Kiss" about "playing with my pleasure zone."
  • Instrumentals: "The Beach", "Confusion Instrumental", "Murder", "Thieves Like Us Instrumental", and "Kiss of Death", all remixes of lyrical songs on the compilation.
  • In the Style of: The music video for "The Perfect Kiss", directed by Jonathan Demme, is a straight Performance Video done in the same manner as Stop Making Sense, the Demme-directed Talking Heads concert film from the previous year.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "The Perfect Kiss" ends with a synthesized bang, implied to be the narrator's friend shooting himself dead.
  • Longest Song Goes Last: On cassette copies, the compilation ends with the 10:41 "True Dub".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: A hallmark of New Order; in particular, "The Perfect Kiss", "Bizarre Love Triangle", "True Faith", "Procession", and "1963" are all unusually upbeat musically for their morbid subject matter, with producer Stephen Hague referring to "1963" in particular as "the only song about domestic violence that you can dance to."
  • Lyric Video: "Blue Monday" eventually received one in 2020 to promote the Definitive Edition release of Power, Corruption & Lies.
  • Mid-Vid Skit: "Bizarre Love Triangle" interrupts the music for the following odd exchange: "I don't believe in reincarnation because I refuse to come back as a bug or as a rabbit!" "You know, you're a real 'up' person." In the middle of a video with no narrative.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Simply the words "New Order Substance 1987" on a white background.
  • Monochrome to Color: Most of the music video for "Temptation" is shot in black and white, but as soon as the protagonist starts playing the single in her apartment, the scene fades into vibrant pastel colors and stays that way.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The Temptation of Victoria, a music video for the re-recorded "Temptation" produced and released nearly 20 years after the song itself, is an extended one to departed Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis: not only does the woman in the video resemble him, but she also reenacts his habit of shoplifting records (albeit with the setting transplanted to France).
    • "Shellshock" reprises the melody and structure of "Confusion", the original incarnation of which predates it by roughly three years; the re-recording of "Confusion" on this compilation returns the favor by adopting elements of "Shellshock" in its own mix.
  • Non-Appearing Title: Most of the tracks apply, with the exceptions of "Confusion", "The Perfect Kiss", "Shellshock", "State of the Nation", "Hurt", and "1963".
  • Packaged as Other Medium:
    • The "Blue Monday" 12-inch was designed to look like a 5.25-inch floppy disk, complete with die-cuts for the holes.
    • Both "State of the Nation" and "Bizarre Love Triangle" were packaged in sleeves designed after sheet metal on their single releases, tying in with the cover of Brotherhood.
  • Pop-Star Composer: "Shellshock" was originally written for the film Pretty in Pink.
  • Protest Song: "State of the Nation" is a vague one, attacking "deprivation" in the United Kingdom.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "The Perfect Kiss" was based on an incident while, during a stay in America, a man randomly showed the members of New Order the gun collection hidden beneath his mattress, before heading out for a night on the town.
  • Rearrange the Song:
    • "Ceremony" and "In a Lonely Place" are re-recordings of the last songs written by Joy Division; they were demoed, but never officially put to tape before Ian Curtis' suicide. After Gillian Gilbert joined the lineup, "Ceremony" was recorded again (with a drier sound that better matched the Joy Division demos) and "In a Lonely Place" was given extra synthesized thunderclaps; it's these versions that are included on the compilation.
    • "Temptation" and "Confusion" are both re-recorded, running significantly shorter than the original 12" releases. The re-recording of "Temptation" combines elements of the radically different 7" and 12" versions from 1982, while "Confusion" is a flat-out Speedy Techno Remake. Fittingly, each of these songs receives the subtitle "New Version" in the liner notes.
    • "Sub-Culture", "Shellshock", and "Hurt" are all truncated due to space limitations, with "The Perfect Kiss" being an additional victim on CD, DAT, and streaming releases. The full-length version of "The Perfect Kiss" wouldn't be included on a New Order CD release in its entirety until the 2008 collector's edition reissue of Low-Life. Notably, the edit of "Shellshock" ended up being so similar to the original Pretty in Pink version of the song that it's frequently misidentified as it.
    • "Sub-Culture" is remixed by American record producer John Robie (who also provided the remix of "Shellshock" included on this compilation), incorporating soul singer backing vocals and more club-oriented rhythms; ironically, the album version ended up being considered more club-friendly. A few of the lyrics are also rewritten compared to the Low-Life version.
    • Many of the tracks on the second unit are alternate mixes of songs from unit one, usually instrumental versions, made for 12"-wielding DJs to flip between in clubs. "Shame of the Nation" sticks out for overlaying the vocals from "State of the Nation" atop a new instrumental line and soul choir backup.
  • Rule of Cool: The sole rationale for the frog solo in "The Perfect Kiss".
  • Shout-Out:
    • The outro of "Confusion" features a "ra-tata-tatata-ta-ta-hey!" chant that nods to the "mama-say mama-sah ma-ma-coo-sah" chant from Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango's 1972 single "Soul Makossa"; the use of it specifically in the outro further harks back to "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" by Michael Jackson.
    • "Thieves Like Us" derives its title from the 1974 film of the same name. The song additionally interpolates the bassline to the Hot Chocolate track "Emma", which Peter Hook admitted to in a 2017 Louder interview.
    • "Murder" features samples of dialogue from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Caligula.
    • Peter Hook's bass riff in "Blue Monday" is lifted from Ennio Morricone's soundtrack to For a Few Dollars More, and the choir sample is taken from Kraftwerk's "Uranium". The song also sounds quite a bit like Sylvester's "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)", which isn't that surprising given that the band acknowledged the disco star as an influence. The song title itself, meanwhile, is derived from the 1973 Kurt Vonnegut novel Breakfast Of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday.
    • The backing vocals of "Sub-Culture" reference the theme of Shaft, tying in with the line "you realize you can't shaft without someone else."
    • The Surreal Music Video for "True Faith" is inspired by Oskar Schlemmer's Triadisches Ballett.
    • "Cries and Whispers" is named after the 1972 film of the same name.
    • The configuration of the A-sides on the main album and the B-sides on the extra disc/cassette is a lot like fellow Manchester band Buzzcocks' Singles Going Steady compilation, which employed a similar scheme on a single record, with the A-Sides on side "A" and the B-sides on side "B". The only major difference is the LP release of Substance only includes the A-sides, with the CD, DAT, and cassette releases taking the Distinct Double Album approach.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: Many tracks on the B-side portion are alternate instrumental remixes of tracks included on the A-side portion (e.g. "Blue Monday" and "The Beach", "The Perfect Kiss" and "Kiss of Death", "Bizarre Love Triangle" and "Bizarre Dub Triangle", etc.), reflecting their original configurations on their initial single releases.
  • Speedy Techno Remake: The re-recording of "Confusion", which is considerably faster in tempo and features a much harder, more traditionally "techno" sound than the 1983 original. This is especially noticeable with the inclusion of "Confusion (Instrumental)" on the B-sides portion, which is taken straight from the original 1983 release.
  • Spiteful Spit: "Lonesome Tonight" features the sound of someone hocking a loogie during the outro, tying in with the bitter lyrics about a failed relationship to invoke this trope.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Gillian Gilbert has backing vocals on "Procession" and "Confusion"; Peter Hook also performs backing vocals on the latter.
  • Stop and Go: Done in the music video for "Bizarre Love Triangle", which briefly cuts out the music to show a short argument between a man and a woman over the topic of reincarnation before cutting back into the song. This doesn't happen in the actual single.
  • Studio Chatter: "Confusion" ends with the band cracking up and playfully arguing over the outro for a few seconds.
  • Surreal Music Video:
    • The music video for "Blue Monday" pairs video game footage with false-color clips of military vehicles. The video for the song's 1988 remix is even stranger, with footage of balancing dogs, the band playing with milk crates and tennis balls in a disjointedly-designed room, wind-up frog toys, and marker-on-paper animations based on the aforementioned scenes.
    • The "Bizarre Love Triangle" video is a collage of stock footage, performance footage of the band, and specially-shot clips of businesspeople flying into the air (via an off-screen trampoline) and a couple arguing about reincarnation.
    • The video for "True Faith", courtesy of French choreographer Philippe Decouflé; alongside the video for the Fine Young Cannibals' "She Drives Me Crazy" from two years later, this was one of the only two music videos he directed over the course of his career, and both make prominent use of people in bizarre costumes performing avant-garde routines.
  • Take a Third Option: Most countries either released the A-Sides portion on a single cassette or a double-cassette release with the B-sides portion. The Canadian branch of Factory, distributed by PolyGram, issued the B-sides portion as a separate cassette compilation titled Substance Sides with artwork adapted from the "True Faith" single cover.
  • Title by Year: "1963" is named as such after the year when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, taking place in January of that year and using imagery related to the killing as an analogy for a man murdering his wife to elope with his mistress.
  • Title Confusion: "Cries and Whispers" and "Mesh" have their names swapped on the album's packaging on most releases, stemming from an error present on the "Everything's Gone Green" sleeve back in 1982; the iTunes release makes things even weirder by referring to "Cries and Whispers" as "Mesh (Cries and Whispers)". This whole affair wasn't corrected until Substance was officially added to streaming services in 2020.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "The Perfect Kiss" idiosyncratically describes jerking off as "playing with my pleasure zone."
  • Vanilla Edition: LP and U.S. cassette copies only include the A-side portion of the album, likely due to cost issues, as the total collection of 12" A-sides already covers two LPs. Releases on all other formats add in the B-sides as well, plus "Procession" (which was only ever released as a 7" single) and "Murder" (which was initially a Belgium-only release); the UK cassette version goes an extra mile and includes several more B-sides not featured on CD or DAT copies.
  • Voice Clip Song: "Confusion Instrumental" and especially "Kiss of Death" chop and screw fragments of Bernard Sumner's vocals from their respective A-sides ("Confusion" and "The Perfect Kiss").
  • Who Shot JFK?: In New Order Music 1981-89, Bernard Sumner facetiously described "1963" as being based around this trope; his tongue-in-cheek summary of the song states that John F. Kennedy arranged for Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate his wife in Dallas so he could elope with Marilyn Monroe, only for Oswald to take out Kennedy by mistake; Monroe commits suicide in despair, while Oswald is murdered by Jack Ruby for causing his boss's hitman business to go bust.note