(Note: This entry is long, pompous, and paints me firmly as a K-ROCKIST of the worst sort. I apologise in advance. I am withholding my supply of chocolate digestive biscuits from myself as a punishment)
So, I know you're thinking: given that Substance, (The Best of), (The Rest of), Retro, and International all exist, what possible room is there for yet another New Order hits collection?
Well, the gimmick behind Singles is that this collection, unlike others, features the actual 7" singles that New Order have released over the past twenty-five years, instead of album tracks, 12" mixes, or remixes. This Is A Lie, but hey, nobody ever expected them to be consistent.
The compilation starts off by including the original version of Ceremony, never before seen on compact disc. This was recorded when they were a three-piece; when Gillian joined the band, this original single was replaced by a shorter, 12" version which featured all four members. Now, it's not a vast difference, but this version sounds better to me, the rougher-production bringing out the most from Ian Curtis's final moment. So, hurrah!
Two more treats follow (skipping over Procession, as fabulous as it is, simply because there's no difference between this and the Substance version); the first appearance of the 7" mixes of Everything's Gone Green and Temptation! Retro-sequencer fun! The 12" version of Temptation is so much better though. But I'm biased, as I love that song more than butterflies.
And then, oh, and then. Yes, then it all starts to fall apart. Now, I can't blame them for Confusion. God knows, Arthur Baker has remixed it so many times you could probably fill an entire album with different takes on the track. It seems to be a song that New Order just can't help making new versions of, even by accident. They've done it again here, because this isn't the 7" mix of Confusion (either the Factory or Rough Trade version); it's the 12" mix with three minutes lopped off. And lo, the Confusion beast grew once more…
The Perfect Kiss. I'm getting annoyed now. Ooooh. Rage. Building. Up. Is this the 7" edit? The fabled 12" mix cruelly edited on the Substance compact disc and currently only available in its prime by either buying the original vinyl record or a cassette version of Substance? No, annoyingly, this is the album version that you'll find on Low-life. ARRRRRGH! WOULD IT HAVE BEEN SO HARD? *breaks down in tears* 40 SECONDS! THAT'S ALL I'M ASKING! MY VINYL COPY HAS A SCRATCH IN IT!
Shellshock and Sub-Culture (the latter being slightly infamous for Peter Saville refusing to do a cover for the single release, as he didn't like the mix. So Factory supplied it in a black sleeve) are all present and correct. But (come on, you know what's coming, don't you?) THEY DO IT AGAIN! Bizarre Love Triangle is taken straight from Brotherhood, not from either the 7" or 12" singles. Grrr. It's still awesome, of course, but you'd think they could have included the right version. It's not like New Order's catalogue is a complicated as Frankie Goes To Hollywood's (where Trevor Horn would often issue new mixes seemingly just for the hell of it).
The cover of Singles is the negative of this cover for 1987's True Faith / 1963:
(once again, neither of these is the original single. True Faith is the 12" version previous seen on Substance. 1963, is…well…Arthur Baker did a remix of it, so perhaps it's not too surprising that we have another new edit in addition to the original 1988 and 1995 releases. Oh God, Johnny, don't point that gun at me, we still have CD2 to go)
CD2 kicks off with Blue Monday 1988. Followed by Run2! Or not. You see, Run2 was withdrawn from sale after a lawsuit by John Denver, who thought it sounded a little too similar to Leaving On A Jetplane. However, Run2 has appeared in the listings of many a New Order compilation. Each time, hopes are raised, and savagely dashed, as it turns out to just be the original Run from Technique. I think, by now, they're doing it on purpose.
"Get round the back!" I love World In Motion. I know it's sneered upon by sniffier New Order fans, but come on! John Barnes! It's one-on-one! They don't make lyrics like that anymore (and indeed, in the Criminal Justice Act of 1994, such lyrics were outlawed, but apparently, curry-themed anthems are allowed). "We're singing for Eng-er-land!" How can people hate this?
Spooky is another album version instead of the single, but as it's Spooky, nobody cares (unfair, actually, listening to it again. In fact, most of Republic is unfairly maligned. Sure, it's not as good as Technique, and I can see how it could be considered a disappointment after that, but it's still got a nice groove. (Yes, I just used 'groove' *strikes a Westwood pose*)).
The rest of the compilation follows the single gimmick correctly, so I have nothing to complain about. So, I'll say that as comebacks go, Crystal is up there with "TALK TO THE HAND!" Everything wonderful about twenty years of electronic pop reflected and refracted around a glitterball synth. Even if it reveals that Barney hasn't found the honey section of the supermarket yet (it's actually quite cheap!). After Here To Stay, the curio from the 24 Hour Party People soundtrack, produced by The Chemical Brothers, the band (now minus Gillian) decided to have another three year rest, perhaps in order to stop themselves hating each other again, and perhaps just because they're a bunch of slackers.
Anyway, CD2 ends with the singles from 2005's Waiting For The Sirens' Call. Krafty may sound like the band hit 'New Order Preset 2 (Republic Edition)', but hey, it's effective. As much I like Ana Matronic, the same can't be said of Jetstream, which never really takes off (I'm so sorry. But it had to be done). Waiting For The Sirens' Call and Turn though, are both great.
So, what have we learnt? Aside from me being a complete obsessive who shouldn't be allowed out of the house? Despite the practice they've had over the years, the definitive New Order compilation is still elusive. Singles is riddled with labelling errors, wrong track selections, and extensive duplication with past collections. Yet, it's utterly essential and fantastic. If you don't know various FAC numbers off by heart (only a few! It's not as if I've memorised the entire catalogue! Stop looking at me like that!), this is a great way to get the best of New Order (I'd also advise picking up Substance when it floats into one of HMV's roaming sales, as it's mainly 12" mixes and is just as wonderful). If you do happen to know what FAC123 is without looking it up (SHUT YOUR MOUTH), then Singles will irritate you. It really will, but you'll buy it anyway for what it includes, and grumble quietly about the mistakes. Or write huge-ass blog entries about them. Who knows?