Iterations: New Order – “Your Silent Face”

Iterations: New Order – “Your Silent Face”
New Order / Power, Corruption & Lies

New Order’s 1980’s output is nigh-untouchable, but amongst those albums, it’s arguable that 1983’s Power Corruption & Lies is the best of the best, as they stepping out of the shadow of Joy Division and boldly established their own identity.

And while there were no singles taken directly from the record – the band somehow had enough killer material to release non-album singles and still make untouchable long-players – “Your Silent Face” can probably be considered the centrepiece of the record, putting their interest in synthesizers and electronic sounds front and centre while still creating indelible melodic hooks.

In revisiting the record last year for a Tim’s Twitter Listening Party, drummer Stephen Morris recollected:

NME interviewed the band members past and present last year on the occasion of the release of Power Corruption & Lies: The Definitive Edition box, and Morris also had this to say about the track:

“It was the first time that Bernard wrote all the lyrics and found himself as a singer,” says Morris. “On ‘Movement’ we’d all sweated blood and tried to write meaningful lyrics together and failed miserably. On ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’… Bernard had found a way of singing and a style that really suited him. Who else would put “You caught me at a bad time / So why don’t you piss off’ at the end of a song like ‘Your Silent Face’? You can tell we’re not being terribly serious.”

– Stephen Morris, “It felt like we were changing the world”: inside New Order’s seminal ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’

And in considering the record on its 30th anniversary back in 2013, The Quietus tried to articulate the wonder of the track:

‘Your Silent Face’ for a lot of people, still, is likely the heart of the album. The steady Kraftwerkisms are all over the place, Gilbert’s electronic orchestrations perfectly simple and throat-catching, a melodica exploring space and melody just as beautifully as on any prime Augustus Pablo single. Sumner’s ruminations are cryptic at best but all the more suggestive for it. Hook’s bass becomes a new lead for Sumner’s guitars to wrap themselves around. Morris becomes the fully electronic beat box human, turning all those complaints – ALL those idiot complaints – about the supposed soullessness of electronic music into so much grunting hash from whining fools. Then right when there might be some sort of clear lyrical breakout moment:

“You’ve caught me at a bad time/ So why don’t you piss off?”

It all melts into yet another synth mood-out, the melodica returns in as deft a moment of drama as any that can be imagined. It introduces a fleeting sense of chagrin or embarrassment before everything comes flooding back together all at once, seeing out the song steadily and just so.

30 Years On: New Order’s Power Corruption And Lies Revisited @ The Quietus

And in another Quietus feature on the album from last year, Gillian Gilbert revealed the Kraftwerk influence on the track and album came from a more pragmatic place than just artistry:

“Because there was a 16-track at the studio, we couldn’t have many tracks going on, and that simplicity really suited the songs. We also listened to a lot of Kraftwerk in Britannia Row, because we liked their simplicity: there aren’t many tracks on their albums, and their music’s stripped down.”

Gillian Gilbert Of New Order On Power, Corruption & Lies

And with that, the track:

Going back to original vintage, here’s a live performance in 1983 from exactly where I’m not sure:

This cut comes from the professionally-shot and officially-released 2006 show was at Carling Academy in Glasgow, which I shared in full last month:

I will allow that Peter Hook & The Light have as much right to perform New Order material as anyone, but it always just seems a bit Bizarro Superman to me. Here’s their version taken from a show at Manchester Cathedral in January 2013:

Which segues into a few noteworthy covers: Los Angeles darkwavers Cold Cave recorded a cover in 2016 for a New Order tribute website that no longer exists; Stereogum has some details on the provenance of the track:

Brighton’s Fujiya & Miyagi offered a cover as their contribution to a 2012 Mojo cover CD, Power, Corruption & Lies Covered:

Washington DC college-rock-gazers Velocity Girl released their version as the a-side of a 7″ in 1994. Very fond of this one as I love hearing Sarah Shannon sing anything:

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