A New 'Movement': Revisiting New Order's Debut

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Warner Music UK

New Order's debut album Movement is today considered one of the best album of the ‘80s. At the time of its release, however, it found the band between a rock and a hard place, trying to move forward while not dismissing their past as an entirely different band.

In the wake of frontman Ian Curtis’s death in May 1980, the members of Joy Division had a decision to make: should they carry on without Curtis and continue using the same name or move forward as an all-new musical entity? In the end, they chose the latter, renaming themselves New Order. But it was a strange time for Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris, who had to answer many questions, chiefly “Who’s going to be singing lead now?”

READ MORE: The Tragedy That Birthed New Order

“We spent six months in the studio experimenting in an attempt to find our new sound,” Sumner explained in a 2012 interview with Electronic Beats. “I tried to sing the songs we’d worked on, but it all felt like Joy Division without Ian. Me trying to be Ian, you know? We then spent some time on the East Coast of America. We decided to do a tour there—to play a few obscure dates in small clubs. On these dates, each of us was trying out singing in front of an audience. We were basically testing out which one of us should do it, as it wasn’t an option for us to just cast a new singer with us being his backing band.”

All three gentlemen took their shot at the microphone, but as history reveals, it was Sumner who was ultimately chosen to take over for Curtis.

When it finally hit record stores, critics felt Movement was the work of a band that hadn’t done a great deal of evolution since debut single “Ceremony,” which had come into existence while Curtis was still among the living. In a fanzine questionnaire the following year, the band was asked if they were happy with the album, to which they collectively replied, "We were happy with the songs, not all happy with the production.” In Mick Middles’ book From Joy Division to New Order, Hook said of the album, “We were confused musically...Our songwriting wasn't coming together. I don't know how we pulled out of that one."

In hindsight, Movement has since received considerable reevaluation. In 2019, a definitive edition provided a much more complete picture of how New Order managed to move forward from the outset - through demos, rehearsal recordings, and alternative mixes.

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