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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 New Order, released in 1987. Released as a stopgap during the interim between 1986's Brotherhood and 1989's Technique, 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). The album is also the band's first to not be focused primarily on the LP 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. Due to the limited capacity of physical media back in the day, a good amount of tracks were edited down or outright re-recorded to fit a shorter length.

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. 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).

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; the DAT release is a double-tape package and features the exact same tracklist per tape as the CD version does per disc.


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.

Upon and long after its release, Substance received immense critical and commercial acclaim, selling over one million copies. To this day, it is New Order's best-selling and most widely acclaimed album, even surpassing their proper studio albums. Because of the album's success, another singles compilation for Joy Division was released in 1988, also titled Substance. As a result, the New Order album is frequently referred to as Substance 1987 (after the cover art) to differentiate it from the Joy Division one.


Tracklist (taken from the cassette version; tracks marked with a "†" are exclusive to cassette):

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

Side Two

  1. "The Perfect Kiss" (8:46)
  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)

Side Three

  1. "In a Lonely Place" (6:16)
  2. "Procession" (4:27)
  3. "Mesh" (3:02)†
  4. "Cries and Whispers" (3:25)
  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)†

Principal members:

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

  • Anti-Love Song: Many of the songs qualify, particularly "Blue Monday" and "Bizarre Love Triangle".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, all but 7 of them exceed the 5-minute mark.
  • 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.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "The Perfect Kiss" ends with a synthesized bang on LP and cassette, implied to be the narrator's friend shooting himself dead.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: A hallmark of New Order; "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."
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Simply the words "New Order Substance 1987" on a white background.
  • 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.
  • Re-Cut:
    • A significant number of songs had to receive significant overhauls to compensate for storage limitations of physical media back in 1987.
      • "Temptation" and "Confusion" are both re-recorded, running significantly shorter than the original 12" releases.
      • "Sub-Culture", "Shellshock", and "Hurt" are all significantly edited down from their original running lengths, with "The Perfect Kiss" being an additional victim on CD and DAT copies.
    • "Sub-Culture" is a different example of this trope, in comparison with the version included on Low-Life. The song received a remix by American record producer John Robie for its 12" release, incorporating soul singer backing vocals and more club-oriented rhythms; ironically, the album version ended up being considered more club-friendly.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Blue Monday" and "The Beach". They are the same track, but "The Beach" alternates sounds and voices throughout the song. Not surprisingly, they were originally released as an A-side and B-side back in 1983.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Gillian Gilbert has backing vocals on "Procession" and "Confusion".
  • Title Confusion: "Cries and Whispers" and "Mesh" have their names swapped on the album's packaging, stemming from an error present on the "Everything's Gone Green" sleeve back in 1982.
  • 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 

Example of: