New Order in more recent years are a bit like Marmite. You either love them or you can’t stand them. Once the pioneers of ’80s dance and club music, now seen more an icon in British music as to what was. But despite members leaving and 2 breakups, the band are still making music, playing to audiences and showing continued success. After 2015’s ‘Music Complete’ with the odd live album released here and there, fans were wondering whether breakup number 3 could be on the way, curious as to whether the ’80s electronica power group would have any sort of real presence in the 2020’s. But here we are with the new single ‘Be A Rebel’.
‘Be A Rebel’, if you’ve been listening to New Order for the last 10 years wont come as any sort of surprise in terms of the sound, in fact I think it sounds like a B-Side to ‘Music Complete’, perhaps the 2015 album wasn’t as complete as we once thought, with Bernard Sumners saying the new single was a “leftover” that “didn’t make the cut” for 2015’s ‘Music Complete’ which you can tell just by listening. This isn’t inherently a bad thing though, I really liked the thematic sounds of the last album, and so hearing ‘Be A Rebel’ after 5 years of radio silence from New Order sparked some joy in my eye. If you liked the sound of the last album then you’ll probably love the new tune just as well. For me? I can appreciate using older work that never saw the light of release for future music, plenty of bands have done that, and done it marvellously well. But here, I don’t know how well it holds up.
Now I’m not suggesting the song should have stayed a leftover, but it’s not the typical boom you get from New Order singles of the past. Tracks like ‘Krafty’, ‘Restless’ and ‘Regret’, they stick out, there’s a real sense of motion within those tracks, whereas here, ‘Be A Rebel’ is more of a quiet, dreamy, foot tapper than what we’ve heard from the band before. And I’m not comparing to the likes of ‘Blue Monday’ because that would be unfair, the band released that almost 40 years ago, and have gone through many musical changes since then, but one consistency I feel is missing here, is the power behind the track. It doesn’t sound too unlike the sounds from their last album and it doesn’t go off with a bang, which after 5 years, you would expect a bit of a rework when it comes to older music that never saw the light of day being released half a decade later.
I’ve heard the comparison to the likes of Sumner and Johnny Marr’s supergroup duo ‘Electronic’ which you could argue the similarities sure, but there were already similarities to New Order back in Electronic’s heyday, so it all comes full circle, so of course work that heavily involves Bernard Sumner, will have sounds that Bernard Sumner is known for using. Perhaps I’m expecting too much from a band with such a high legacy. Perhaps the track is a grower not a shower. All I can say, is that if you’re expecting the next big wave of sound from New Order, then prepare to be disappointed. That being said, if you loved Music Complete, then you’ll probably really enjoy this. It’s by no means a bad single, but definitely feels a tad lacklustre. Opinions can change though, quite drastically, let’s not forget the certain “punch-your-TV-obnoxious” band that a particular music magazine once hated and now absolutely cherish. So in terms of changing tone on something you like or you don’t, I’m not going to be rash here. But I do think if we’re to expect a new record from the Mancunian monsters, I wouldn’t bet any money on ‘Be A Rebel’ being a part of a new and evolved sound.
Lyrically the song comes across as pretty relevant, perhaps the recent Black Lives Matter protests are what sparked Bernard and company to revisit the track. The song talks about how the world can be a “dangerous place” but it’s “all we’ve got”, referring to people being “different” and that being okay. “Be a rebel, not a devil”. Clearly there’s a key element to rebelling against what we know is wrong, but doing so peacefully. Echoing terms we’re all grown up with like ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’. It’s a clear outlook on the world from Sumner’s eyes, and from that regard is a very welcome conversation. Allies and Rebels are what the world needs right now to really make a change, so it’s a particularly prevalent topic that we should all take on board.
If you want to hear a modern and more evolved take on the alternative dance, techno and club sound, I highly recommend listening to artists such as fellow Manchester band ‘Everything, Everything’, the Scottish trio ‘Chvrches’, London’s own ‘Georgia’ or simply go back and listen to New Order’s older material. Music has no expiry date, and it’s never the wrong time to stick on a classic, or discover a band that you don’t know much of the deeper cuts of their discography.
The good news to take away from ‘Be A Rebel’ is that New Order have not slithered away into nothingness, and there’s hope for more music still to come. You can see New Order on tour in 2021 across the pond with the Pet Shop Boys, and a special one off UK show at London’s 02 Arena in November next year. Until then, let’s hope our Monday’s aren’t so blue.