There is a vast difference between the lyrics penned by Ian Curtis for Joy division songs and the lyrics produced by Bernard Sumner for New Order. Ian Curtis is more comparable to Robert Smith and what I would call Gothic romantic poetry and prose. To put it plain, there is nothing gothic in New Order, expect perhaps in some of the early songs which were taken over from the Joy Divison era.
New Order songs seem to be mostly about relationships and much less introspective. Typically, relationships heart and fail in New Order, perhaps unsurprisingly.
The band’s lifestyle was hardly conducive to spiritual living. However, there is a desire to simply enjoy the morning sun, remember the wondrous innocence of boyhood, and fly beyond the horizon that has a spiritual quality. It may be no accident that the band often used choir sounds, famously in Blue Monday but also in Here to Stay. It is an ironic title: nobody is here to stay, and there is no escape from the inexorable passing of time. At times, in lyrics and interviews, the band makes us wonder about a more sinister side to their journey, but there is rebelliousness and a struggle that is actually hopeful. Many of us can sympathize with the desire not to own a house or a key or to wash our car as symbols of the quiet desperation of suburban life. Bernard is like Ulysses rope to the mast of his ship, hearing and waiting for the sirens call, eventually ready to get off and become grateful for everything.
More recently, singularity evokes the inner tension between the sense of being lost in the vast universe and yet the singular experience of human consciousness. “No,” it suggests, we are not mere specks of dust on a ball of dust hurling through the universe. Then God is never that far, as in the tragic 1963:
Can I save my life at any price?
For God’s sake won’t you listen to me?
For some of us (and this may well include Barney & Co), the journey back is both long and difficult, a painful turn and return (Turn):
It’s a hard way to come home
You’ve got me on my knees
The walls are tumbling down
They’re falling like the leaves
Days turn into months and years
I can’t forget that you were here
I feel your presence everywhere
In the corner over there…
- Leave me alone
- Here to stay
- Waiting for the Sirens’ call