It’s sur­pris­ing some­times what you can lapse. Remember Bomb Pops? The red-​​white-​​blue multi-​​veined pop­si­cles ped­dled from the back of the ice cream truck?

Well, okay, maybe not — and this isn’t a post about child­hood nos­tal­gia nor long­ing for the Days of Old When Things Were So Much Better, gag.

Several months ago I began re-​​ripping my CDs to iTunes. I began the project partly because I had a newer iPod, and partly because the orig­i­nal rips I’d done were a sub­stan­tial com­pro­mise. I was using MP3 tech — hey, it was the best avail­able in the Dinosaur Days of 2002 — and had tried to strike a bal­ance between size and quality.

See, my CD col­lec­tion amounts to about 10 days’ music, and that’s not easy to stuff into an iPod.*

So with iTunes 7 I started explor­ing AAC and dis­cov­ered that at a higher bitrate I could still enjoy the orig­i­nal MP3 rips, with bet­ter qual­ity and with only a mar­ginal increase in over­all size per track.

In the expe­di­tion I found Joy Division’s Substance, and got to think­ing about New Order. Specifically, I stum­bled across Run 2 on iTunes, and it reignited a lot of memories.

It’s strange to me now to think of how com­pletely I had for­got­ten New Order and how sig­nif­i­cant they were in my 20s. But as I plunge back into their albums I keep redis­cov­er­ing tracks I’ve known for years, tracks which lay qui­es­cent in my mem­o­ries. I was immersed in New Order for a long time, in a lot of excur­sions best left undoc­u­mented here, and my musi­cal tastes were defin­tely influ­enced by them.

This isn’t a polit­i­cal post; and it’s not a cul­tural cri­tique. It’s just my com­ment on how weird it is that I moved for­ward with Bach, with Kurosawa, with animé and with pro­gram­ming … and yet retained an affec­tion for Monty Python, The Cure and Douglas Adams … and still man­aged to for­get a set of musi­cal expres­sions that gen­uinely affected me for at least half a decade.

New Order’s min­i­mal­ist design musi­cally has been present in my pref­er­ences, too, in the bands I like. The Cure, for instance, has clearly been influ­enced by them. And their album cov­ers have even dic­tated recent projects I’ve done: Expressive, evoca­tive and unusual approaches to mes­sages and content.

And I’m not alone in this. Songs such as Age of Consent have been used recently to sell cel­lu­lar phone ser­vice for Cingular, and Blue Monday is widely rec­og­nized as being the most pop­u­lar sin­gle of all time.

But my very favorite track by them, ever, is Your Silent Face** from Power, Corruption and Lies.

I’m not sure why, but to me this song pretty well evokes the entire sense of an era. PC&L was gen­er­ally a good album — but this one song is some­thing I real­ized, after I lis­tened to it again a few months ago, was embed­ded deep into my psy­che. For its genre, within its expres­sion, I think this is prob­a­bly the most beau­ti­ful song I’ve ever heard.

No, it’s not Bach, nor is it Seal; nor is it Coltrane. It’s sim­ply lovely, and one that I’m glad I found again after all these years.


* Well, not a pal­try 10 GB iPod anyway.

** Lyrics:

A thought that never changes remains a stu­pid lie.
It’s never been quite the same.
No hear­ing or breath­ing, no move­ment, no col­ors.
Just silence.

Rise and fall of shame.
A search that shall remain.
We asked you what you’d seen.
You said you didn’t care.

Sound formed in a vac­uum may seem a waste of time.
It’s always been just the same.
No hear­ing or breath­ing, no move­ment, no lyrics.
Just nothing.

The sign that leads the way.
The path we can­not take.
You’ve caught me at a bad time, so why don’t you piss off?


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