May 1983: New Order Release POWER, CORRUPTION AND LIES

Thursday, May 2, 2024

New Order was ready to break free. After the admittedly "painful" process of making the band's debut, Movement, under the looming shadow of Joy Division's untimely demise after the death of singer Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert and Peter Hook were in desperate need of change.

The band's first order of business was cutting of producer Martin Hannett, who'd worked with Joy Division throughout the group's short but impactful career. His relationship with the members had eroded considerably while making Movement, so New Order decided to produce album number two themselves.

Returning to the Britannia Row studio in England (it's where Joy Division recorded Closer), the outfit embraced the new and emerging technology afforded to them at the time: "So it was a bit of a science project, really, as well as songwriting," Sumner said during an interview in 2021. "And that's why it sounded so good."

"Nobody in the band wanted another Joy Division," added Gilbert. "We were starting to getting a new audience as we were getting the new sound together too, which was exciting. We were going somewhere else with this, somewhere we’d just discovered, further and further away from the past. Producing Power, Corruption and Lies ourselves was very much a new beginning. That’s not just hindsight, it felt like a fresh start at the time. New Order were becoming a little gang of our own, going further away from Joy Division."

For drummer Stephen Morris, the proof came in the reaction from fans of their previous band: "It felt like we'd become New Order. Joy Division fans hated it. And that's how I knew we were onto a winner, really. This is the right thing, because those people don't like us anymore. But other people do. And it was like going from black and white to color."

Mixing more and more electronics into the analog instrumentation on the album, the band found them doing something they'd never really done while recording before: having fun.

"It was an interesting period, but mainly on the whole, compared to Movement, it was joyous," explained bassist Peter Hook. "I think that the feeling was, amongst us, I'd like to think that we'd found our path, we'd found a way to do it. And, you know, we were writing great songs."

With such New Order classics including "Your Silent Face" and "Age of Consent" among the new tunes, the group released Power, Corruption and Lies on May 2, 1983. The band's new sound was a hit with the listening public, as it soared all the way to #4 on the UK Albums chart. Over on the UK Independent Albums chart, the LP reached #1: "Power, Corruption and Lies, I have to say out of all the records I listen to now, in my opinion, has the best production," Hook admitted.

The record also boasts what many consider New Order's finest album cover, designed by the group's longtime graphic designer, Peter Saville.

“The title seemed Machiavellian. So I went to the National Gallery looking for a Renaissance portrait of a dark prince," Saville told Guardian in 2011. "In the end, it was too obvious and I gave up for the day and bought some postcards from the shop. I was with my girlfriend at the time, who saw me holding a postcard of the Fantin-Latour painting of flowers and said, ‘You are not thinking of that for the cover?’ It was a wonderful idea. Flowers suggested the means by which power, corruption and lies infiltrate our lives. They’re seductive."