Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bad Lieutenant (or what Bernard Sumner has been up to lately)

We all know that NEW ORDER are perhaps one of the best bands to come out of the collective Manchester area and are certainly to be credited with the fusion of dance and rock music. About a year ago I chronicled the various off shoots and one off projects that band has been engaged in when they are not recording as a groups (to date: they include ELECTRONIC, REVENGE, MONACO, THE OTHER TWO, Peter Hook's upcoming FREEBASS as well as stints with A CERTAIN RATIO, THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS and 808 STATE). However, when Peter Hook announced he was opting out of the band, lead singer and guitarist Bernard Sumner had a choice to make. He could continue to use the name and record new music with the remainder of the band (which now consisted of Sumner and a bunch of random guys since Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert had already left years ago) or he could pick up a new moniker for his music.

This is often a difficult choice for a band. Their is a certain built in ease with staying with the original name (that and a fan recognition that is usually good for some airplay) but if the music is not up to the standard set by the band's earlier work it will be a disaster. Starting up a new band has a sense of renewal to it, but it carries with it the burden of comparison to the singer's original incarnation. There is no doubt that Sumner's work would be recognizable regardless of what it was called so moving forward with the new name of BAD LIEUTENANT was probably best. But this ain't New Order that's for sure.

One can see that if this was the direction the recordings were going why Hook left. The bass lines are pedestrian and the songs are blatant attempts at pop rather than the electronic fused dance hall music of past albums. While some of the songs, most notably "Sink or Swim", "Twist of Fate" and "Dynamo" have a New Order circa "Regret" vibe, the rest of the record plays as a straight forward alternative rock record. When the bass takes the lead, such as "This Is Home" my ear wanted so badly to hear Hook's signature sound instead of the safe and boring sound presented here. One wonders what the songs would have morphed into even in the ELECTRONIC collaboration Sumner had with Johnny Marr which was at least sonically interesting. Sumner clearly has a gift for popcraft and hits on a few nice guitar lines but it could have been so much more. Maybe given time, Sumner will find a sound that is distinct from his work with New Order or Electronic. Although the record is a fine album and is very listenable, I have come to expect more.

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