on 7 January 2005
This superlative double album deserves to be mentioned alongside the likes of Highway 61 Revisited, Sergeant Pepper and so on. It may be a compilation album, but the range and quality of material is astounding, from the sombre beauty of Ceremony, the eerie psychedelia of Everything's Gone Green (one of NO's most underrated tracks), all the way through to True Faith, one of the most perfect pop singles ever recorded. The fact that some NO fans may carp at the reworkings of Temptation, Confusion and Subculture, (which are all fabulous, by the way) and so-called lesser tracks such as Shellshock and State of the Nation, only goes to show what high standards New Order had set themselves by the mid-eighties. The first disc is incontestable proof that, as a singles band, New Order are were (and are) simply untouchable.
The second disc, containing the corresponding B-sides, is fantastic too -although not as immediately gratifying as the first, you'll find yourself soming back to it more and more to get a different "take" on the A-Sides. Furthermore, it contains gems such as 1963 and Procession, which could quite easily have been singles in their own right.
A final note to all NO diehards out there: if you want the definitive version of Substance, try and get your hand on the cassette version, which contains extra tracks: the fragile beauty Mesh, as well the corking re-mixes Dubvulture, Shellcock and the mighty Shep Pettibone mix, Bizarre Dub Triangle. I know cassettes are crap, but you'll have a hard time finding these tracks otherwise!
on 15 May 2001
I could write an essay about this album, and of sorts, that is what it will be. First of all, the criticism part. There is one thing that annoys me most about this album. The idea of a compilation is to compile previously released songs on a single album. Quite why the producers saw fit to alter 'Confusion' and 'Subculture' from the brilliant songs they were to, quite honestly, noises, is beyond me. I have heard that 'Temptation' was changed too from its original form - I shall remain quiet until I own the original 12" single of it to form a judgement.
Now, after that, you may wonder why I gave this 5 stars. The answer is, this is the best compilation of songs ever. I am a largely emotionless soul, but every time I hear 'Thieves Like Us' I feel a tear swelling in my eye. '1963' is the only song I always, without fail sing along to. 'The Perfect Kiss' is, well, perfect. 'Ceremony', 'Procession', are lesser known classics. 'True Faith' and 'Bizarre Love Triangle' are New Order at their best.
Some feel that the second CD is merely an oversight, and is best left unmentioned. I will state my belief here that it is actually better than the first. 'Lonesome Tonight', 'Procession' and 'Kiss of Death' are so much better than the versions here of 'Confusion', 'Subculture' and the below par 'Shellshock' that even the overall brilliance of every other song on the album can't change this fact.
The reason why I have put so much negativity into this review is thus: I have owned this album for 3 years now. In the time I have owned it, I must have listened to it several hundred times, it is scarse that neither CD is in my player. Nothing is perfect, and the imperfections only become apparent after this length of time. To the newcomer, the world of New Order, 1981 to 1987, the best part of their career awaits you.
In short, my advice would be to buy it. If you always liked New Order, but didn't quite get round to buying anything of theirs, get this, ignore the 'Best Of' which is nothing more than a marketing game to make money. If you're a completist (like me) get this as well as all the singles you own.
Nobody could possibly make a mistake in buying this album. This is music for life.
on 10 October 2001
Not all the singles here are the original 12" versions: "Ceremony" is the re-recorded version, not the superb original rendition done before Gillian joined the band.
"Temptation" is a 1987 remixed edit, "Confusion" is also a dodgy sounding 1987 remix, "Subculture" is slightly altered from it's original form, "Hurt" has 2 minutes cut off from it's original 12" form and "The Perfect Kiss" has 40 seconds sliced off from the end of the song.
Despite all this it's still a fantastic album.
"Blue Monday", "True Faith", "Bizarre Love Triangle" and "Thieves Like Us" are the main highlights, but "Everything's Gone Green", "1963" and "Murder" are great too.
on 13 October 2012
I have both vinyl and CD versions of this set and both are extremely excellent! They capture the best of New Order to that date, but the CD version wins by dint of the second disc containing B-sides from all the singles, my only quibble being the lack of Dub Vulture (just get the 12" for that).
This is frequently played late on a Friday or Saturday, when a drink or 2 has been consumed, in a forlorn attempt to recreate the night in The Warehouse in Leeds in 1984 when Blue Monday, and thus post-Movement New Order, finally made sense to me.
Where would a lot of dance music be without New Order?
Buy it and lose yourself...
on 21 May 2002
By rights I shouldn't be listening to this band. I'm 18 years old and seriously into the trance/balearic scene, which has only really been going since 1995. So why do I own every album by this one group, especially since most of their stuff was written in the cheese-ridden 1980's?
Because they're superb, that's why. Anyone who cannot understand what all the fuss is about, here's your answer neatly presented in two-disc CD format. Substance is the best of a superlative group of albums, and deserves to be on everyone's shelf.
CD1 is the best. The hard-driving "Ceremony" is a good opener, and the disc runs through the reasonable "Everything's gone green" and impressive "Temptation", to the classic "Blue Monday", an instantly recognisable track. "Confusion" follows, a slightly cheesey but very listenable track, and then the album slows down a bit with "Thieves like us" and the brilliant "Perfect Kiss". A remix of "Subculture" comes next, not as good as the original but still great, followed by the weaker "Shellshock" and reasonable "State of the Nation". Near the end, "Bizarre Love Triangle" is indeed slightly weird, but with an infectious sound, and the album is rounded out by "True Faith" - New Order's greatest achievement and one of the best songs of all time in my opinion.
CD2 is the lesser-known B-sides to the ones described above. All have their merits, but aren't as classic as the A-sides, and most people won't listen to this CD as much as the first. Pity.
All in, this is a great album which really demonstrates how good some music in the 1980's was. My mates might take the mickey for listening to 1980's music (on a 1980's stereo in my 1980's car!), but when it's this good, who cares? That's got to be a good recommendation from someone who was four when this album was released...
on 22 July 2004
There are quite a few New Order compilations on the market ("[The Best of] New Order," "Retro," and "International"), but none can top 1987's "Substance." On these two discs, we have extended and (some) remixed versions of all the group's essential singles including the then new track "True Faith." While other best-of sets do a terribly botched effort compiling the group's material, "Substance" does the best job at covering their 1980s work. The group's crowning moment, for me, is the disco pump of the classic "Blue Monday," while we get treated to earlier nuggets like the raw "Everything's Gone Green" and more recognizable hits like "Bizarre Love Triangle" and "Perfect Kiss." Two other favorites of mine are the re-recorded versions of "Temptation" and "Confusion" which are given dance-friendly makeovers. While this set doesn't include any tracks from later (and lesser) albums like "Technique" (1989) and "Republic" (1993), I still think "Substance" is the best New Order retrospective around.
Apparently the reason why 'Substance 1987' was released was down to the fact Anthony Wilson wanted to have a tape to play in his car of New Order's non-LP moments, which sounds fair enough to me. 'Substance 1987' is one of the New Order albums that need to be owned, alongside the decent 'Power, Corruption & Lies' (1983' and 'Brotherhood' (1986) and the excellent 'Low Life' (1985) and 'Technique' (1989). New Order were less interesting afterwards, apart from the odd moment like 'Touched By the Hand of God', 'World in Motion', 'Regret', 'Crystal' & 'Run Wild.' Admit it, it's a sometimes patchy career and their status as pioneers is somewhat over-stated considering such acts as The Human League, OMD, Throbbing Gristle, Soft Cell, Heaven 17, Depeche Mode, Ultravox!, Associates, Cabaret Voltaire, This Heat, Psychic TV, Simple Minds & Japan were exploring the territories they supposedly discovered sometime before/at the same time as them.
The first disc focuses on the a-sides (though for some reason a-side and second single 'Procession' turns up on the second disc!)and is largely excellent. The versions of 'Temptation' and 'Confusion' were re-recorded, though I'm not sure why (the originals surfaced on the recent 'Singles'-compilation) and the 12" versions of 'Sub-Culture', 'Shellshock' & 'State of the Nation' are extremely boring (while 'Bizarre Love Triangle' has the same synth-voice as 'I Just Called to Say I Love You'!). Still, hard to go wrong with such classics as 'True Faith', 'Ceremony', 'Blue Monday', 'Thieves Like Us' and 'Everything's Gone Green.' The 12" version of 'The Perfect Kiss' is the best take of that song as is the full length take of 'Thieves Like Us' which is one of the greatest songs of all time (as 'State of the Nation' is surely one of the worst).
The second disc is patchier stuff - instrumental/dub-remixed takes of 'Blue Monday' ('The Beach'), 'Confusion' ('Confused Instrumental'), 'Thieves Like Us', 'The Perfect Kiss' ('Kiss of Death)', 'Subculture' ('Dubvulture'), 'Shellshock' ('Shellcock') and 'Bizarre Love Triangle' ('Bizarre Dub Triangle') are all of academic interest. & 'State of the Nation' doesn't get any better re-titled 'Shame of the Nation', accorded a word change and some cheesy 80s soul vocals that remind you of Living in a Box and Johnny Hates Jazz!
Still...it's not all bad, early tracks like 'Hurt', 'Mesh' and the aforementioned 'Procession' are highlights, while the flip of 'True Faith', '1963' is another of New Order's greatest moments (eventually remixed and released as single in the 1990s). 'Murder' is a great instrumental that samples 'Caligula' and like 1985's 'Sunrise' suggests the Joy Division-sound wasn't completely banished. Fellow b-side 'Lonesome Tonight' is a great tribute to Ian Curtis, despite sounding almost country like 1986's 'As It Is When It Was.' Strangely, the CD-issue of this compilation has opted to keep the superfluous remixes while nixing 'Cries and Whispers' (found on my tape copy of this) - why is that????
The best moment on either of these discs remains another Curtis-associated song - 'In a Lonely Place' (which took its name from a film, as did 'Cries and Whispers', 'Thieves Like Us' & 'Age of Consent') which finds the remains of Joy Division re-named New Order record a song previously demo-ed by JD (see the 'Heart & Soul'box-set). Sumner sounds very much like Curtis as he sings those gorgeously sad-lines ("someday we will die in your dreams" probably one of the greatest lyrics) and the synths sound huge and offer the template The Cure used on 'Disintegration.'
All in all, one to get - though perhaps 2005's 'Singles' is a better buy, even if it offers the 7" versions for the most part? It's a brilliant career, though it should be noted that neither 'Substance 1987' or 'Singles' captures it all, as such tracks as 'Dreams Never End', 'Age of Consent', 'Your Silent Face', 'Love Vigilantes', 'Every Little Counts', 'Touched By the Hand of God', 'Dream Attack', 'Vanishing Point','Guilty Partner', 'Liar', 'Special' and 'Run Wild' aren't included...
on 25 September 2009
The reviews already posted on here combine outpourings of love and nostalgia and mini-essays on New Order. But at their best they WERE that good. If you were around you don't need telling. If you're checking out New Order to find out why they mattered then I strongly suggest you start here, and not with the one disc best of. This twofer is the essence of what made New Order great, it lacks later singles but it packs extended work-outs, ambitious b-sides and the big fat restless mixes that made them a dance sensation. The lengthy tracks simply make it more obvious that this band wrote hypnotic melodies, laid just enough instruments on each track and used the tricks and technology of the time with intelligence. There are compilations out there offering up 80s 12" singles so thick with electronic keyboards and fussy knob-twiddling production that the original songs are all but lost. This assured collection shows New Order were up there with the best for most of the decade and they never lost sight of the need for a good lyric, a timely guitar lick or a slamming tune. Classic!
on 8 November 2001
Anybody wondering what the almighty fuss about this band is need look no further than this superb double CD. These people were pioneers of what the soundtrack of our lives should be. Electronic music being in it's teething years at the time, hear the evolution of music take place. BLUE MONDAY still sounds as devastating to my ears as it did when first released.
The must critisized second CD of b-sides is equally as marvellous as the a-sides. Twelve inch remixes of tracks like Confusion, show how incredibly in touch with the Chicago dance scene this band were. They maybe the first Brits to understand dance music as a palatable musical form.
Everything that has come since pales in the face of New Order's giant steps in the '80s. As important as any band need be.
on 8 May 2012
This collection of NO tracks from the 1980s perfectly showcases both their songwriting ability (see the b-side songs like 1963, Lonesome Tonight, Mesh and Procession) and their knowledge of the dancefloor sounds of the era - only Pet Shop Boys come close I think in choosing their remixers and producers so carefully. All the movers and shakers of that period are here: Shep Pettibone, Arthur Baker and John Robie. If you can though, it is worth tracking down the individual vinyl 12" singles; many of the versions were edited down to lose a couple of minutes or so in order to fit on CD originally (only the mighty Blue Monday and its dub b-side The Beach seem to have escaped unscathed among the supposed 12" versions here). The vinyl versions have greater depth and bass too IMO.