The release of Lost Sirens should come as little surprise really – a scant collection of offcuts cobbled together by the label to tug a few pounds from a devoted fanbase starved of genuine new material. Isn’t this how it’s worked for years?
But still, it’s testament to the messy are they/aren’t they playthrough of verbal blows between bassist Peter Hook and the rest of the band that for a while, it looked like the record might never see the light of day. Yet months on from its originally scheduled release date, and eight years since 2005’s Waiting For The Sirens’ Call – from which these leftovers are culled – Lost Sirens is finally ‘out there’; something we should all probably be thankful for.
Opener I’ll Stay With You is stunningly bittersweet – as New Order always have been – all the more so considering the circumstances of Lost Sirens’ gestation; a line like ‘we are to each-other, like sister and brother’ playing out with an almost cruel irony in the wake of the much publicised spats with Hook. As the most classically New Order-ish track on the compilation – it’s this song more than any other that most feels like it could have found its home on the Sirens album-proper, its exclusion symptomatic perhaps only of its inherent similarity to the LP’s first three tracks. Trading angular guitar lines with a polished chorus, both it and Californian Grass stand as impressively solid examples of the mature, contemporary rock the band took as their template in the noughties.
I Told You So – originally a groove-driven highlight of the full 2005 album – is here present in the form of an early rough mix. Unfortunately, by the very nature of these things, its leaves the listener with the impression of a rather steely, loose melange of guitar textures, a beefed-up set of percussive elements unable to improve on the strutting finesse of the polished final mix. The original incarnation of Hellbent – previously offered on Joy Division/New Order Greatest Hits mish-mash Total last year – fares better through virtue of being largely indiscernible from the original. Slightly rougher, more jagged, it rallies around the indelible pop joy of the track’s central hook – for what it’s worth, one of the band’s finest latter-day melodies.
Many long time aficionados turn their nose up at what we’ve come to refer to as ‘Pop New Order’ in favour of the band’s introspective early 80s material – but in reality, songs like Hellbent are merely the natural evolution of the same group that gave us True Faith, remoulded and mutated to an existence in the 21st century. No, if anything, it’s Sugarcane that offers the more oddball pop moment here; a gleefully energetic ode to autographs and superstars that – uncharacteristically low-fi production aside – sounds like it was written for Kylie Minogue.
Recoil comes as a surprisingly downbeat moment – a restrained bit of icy melancholia that sounds as if it’s come straight off 1993 effort Republic. It offers sobering reflection on how differently Waiting For the Sirens’ Call could have turned out; a procession of tranquil piano chords wrapped around a vintage, halting Sumner line: ‘I can’t explain… just how I feel…’. A sobering moment of reflection perhaps, of how differently Waiting For The Sirens’ Call could have turned out.
At the end of the day, Lost Sirens is what it is – a series of offcuts. But still, it is a New Order album; and as such, maintains a degree of quality indicative of their status as one of Britain’s most enduringly popular acts. Whether we’ll ever see New Order as a ‘complete’ entity again remains to be seen – but if we’re to take it they’ve well and truly shut up shop, as it were, Lost Sirens makes for a welcome parting shot; a sugared pill to take before slipping away into happy dreams where Bizarre Love Triangle plays from now until eternity.