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52 Albums That Changed My Life (and Other Exaggerations), Chapter 39: Substance

When a band breaks up or changes, there is a good chance that there are going to be differences between the new entity and the old. It’s like making food in a lot of ways, change a small ingredient, and most likely the meal will be similar, maybe not quite the same but similar. Switch out or get rid of the main ingredient, you often get something very different.

Such is the case with New Order.

I honestly don’t know how old I was when I first came across New Order. I was maybe in my very early teens and it came with a weird coincidence. It was the music video for “True Faith” and at the start of the said video, you have two people wearing barrels, slapping one another. Around the same time, I saw the Monty Python skit with the two guys slapping each other with fish and for some reason, my brain always equates Monty Python with “True Faith”.

Anyway, that was my entryway into New Order. At the time, it was rather hard to find an album with all of their singles in it. Eventually, I came across a double-disc set called Substance. It had “Blue Monday,” “True Faith,” Bizarre Love Triangle,” pretty much everything you could ever want from the collection.

And on my shelf, it went right beside the Joy Division singles collection that was also called Substance.

And I never realized the connection.

For readers who may be unaware, the short form version is that Joy Division was a band fronted by lead singer and lyricist Ian Curtis. Ian Curtis took his own life but the band continued onward, adding keyboardist Gillian Gilbert and changing the name to New Order.

Joy Division, when they go to their peak, was fairly dark, brooding music and lyrics. While many of New Order’s lyrics can come off as dark (or maybe melancholic is the right word), the music itself, especially the tracks on Substance, is a bit lighter, electronic and almost pop.

Joy Division was music for dark concert halls, New Order was music for the clubs.

But I didn’t know it was the same band with one major difference. Other than the bass guitar is so much in the front of certain tracks on New Order’s Substance, I can’t really pick up much in the way of similar features. Maybe “Ceremony” in terms of how the vocals sounded but overall, until someone mentioned to me that they were the same band, I had no idea. It’s very much a case of that main ingredient changed and it’s a different meal. In this case, it’s still a very good one.

And how many bands can say that? Especially when the missing ingredient is the main lyricist and singer? AC/DC would be one, I suppose, but they kind of turned out very similar. Van Halen… I guess… well, maybe I’ll just leave that one alone.

The weird thing is, as the previous chapters can attest to, I’m not a club person, I don’t really like dance music.

But New Order speaks to me and Substance was one of the best ways to experience their magic. Very few remixes and most of the songs were just left as they were. Bittersweet pop songs with a good beat in many cases. If I had to pick out a favorite track or two, I’d probably go with “True Faith” and “Bizarre Love Triangle” and “Temptation.”

Maybe it’s because these songs are multi-faceted. Decent lyrics, the music is good, and on the off chance I wanted to dance to it, I could.

I’m not going to but I could.

As far as I can tell, Substance is still available for purchase but it is not, as of this writing, currently on Spotify. But it is worth a listen.

Brent Chittenden

Brent Chittenden is a freelance writer with a gift for the geek. Currently a writer with A Journal Of Musical Things and a podcaster with True North Nerds, he's also written for Comic Book Daily, Explore Music and a dozen other places. Currently, he is the co-host of the True North Nerds podcast. You can find out more at

Brent Chittenden has 195 posts and counting. See all posts by Brent Chittenden

One thought on “52 Albums That Changed My Life (and Other Exaggerations), Chapter 39: Substance

  • I hate to admit my intro really was Orgy’s cover of Blue Monday… hey I was 16. But I then found Substance and quickly became obsessed. I had somehow missed New Order on my first pass of 80s music, where I picked up The Cure and Depeche Mode in a huge way. (Also I would soon discover that Isolation by Therapy? was in fact originally a Joy Division song!)

    I never understood how Thieves Like Us and Confusion were singles/popular. To this day I just don’t care for them at all. I originally despised 1963, but it grew on me when I realised it was a tongue-in-cheek JFK conspiracy theory. Also I think it was Stephen Morris that referred to it as, “a song about domestic violence that you can dance to.” Tongue still firmly in cheek.


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