Musings on music, old, new, popular and obscure. Post punk, metal, hip-hop, funk, and rock in general. A music fan with a desire to lose boundaries on what should and should not be listened to writes about experience in music from a listener's perspective, hopefully unhindered by prior expectation.

Friday, March 2, 2012

To open, Mistakes of a (Not-So) New Order

This blog is an experimental thought, a thought to share and learn about music in the corners, crannies--even if some of them are big, large or even huge--and unnoticed spaces of music. Those places are different for all of us, and I often find myself traveling in one direction for a length of time, only to be turned in another by friends, family or chance.

The past year or two, I've found myself digging away at the time frame and genre known collectively as "post-punk," though a lot of it bears little or no resemblance to the rest. The angularity cramped in against hooks and experimentation often drives my interest, which began with the influence of my best friend in high school and college, known to many of us as "Jogn," thanks to a typo on my part, who introduced me to Gang of Four most prominently, but also a lot of the punk I know and all sorts of stranger things--Public Image Ltd, Flipper, pointing me toward bands like The Fall, The Buzzcocks and so on.

Somehow it simply simmered and fermented in the back of my mind until it came crashing out. I can't be sure of the reason. I bought Joy Division's Substance and Unknown Pleasures, but they didn't make much of a dent beyond the uncharacteristic "Love Will Tear Us Apart" single, which I simply knew from casual exposure over the years. On a whim, and out of a strange love of meticulously definitive collections, I picked up the Joy Division boxset, Heart and Soul, some two or three years later and something finally clicked.

I tried to push Joy Division on a friend who has always been the most willing guinea pig to my musical forays, and he pushed back, as he occasionally does, with the note that he had found himself far preferring the splinter-group, formed from what musical beginnings were left at the end of Joy Division's vocalist Ian Curtis' life, New Order. He immediately directed me to an upload of "Age of Consent" (the same link is embedded below) from their album Power, Corruption & Lies and I rapidly found myself trapped. I picked up the collector's edition reissue and set about the process of re-structuring the digital copies I made of my discs, placing them in chronological order, with album art and release dates in my digital library. Somehow, in the process, I discovered that the original issuance of all of New Order's reissues was, in fact, utterly botched.

It was not a new thing to me, years ago I'd stumbled into the confusing mess of The Fall's Live at the Witch Trials. Musically, I don't think I was ready for a band like The Fall at the time, and what I had access to (as I was moving toward my eventual stance of purely legal ownership) was the early issuance that Mark E. Smith--only consistent member of The Fall, for those unfamiliar--had released himself on his own Cog Sinister label, which was mastered poorly from a bad vinyl source. At the time, live music was not interesting to me, so between the poor audio quality and the title, I was confused into not being able to sit through the album and it fell between the cracks. As it happens: it's not live, and MES re-released it through Voiceprint Records (oddly, apparently most known for progressive rock reissues) and later definitively (or as close as it gets) through Sanctuary Records--I've actually built a database to determine the most efficient way to acquire all of The Fall's studio material, and let it be known that the Sanctuary two-disc release is the best choice.

In any case, the idea of the insane and stupid decision to master from commercial vinyl was not new to me, and was intensely disheartening. Indeed, as I dug deeper I found this thread on the one of the larger unofficial New Order fan sites. They had managed to dig up over three hundred errors (all catalogued at that link) on the five albums--Movement, Power, Corruption & Lies, Low Life, Brotherhood, and Technique--that Rhino had reissued. This isn't the time to get into how Rhino has suffered since it was acquired by Warner (a similar fate to that which has unfortunately befallen Sanctuary Records as well, though the Kinks re-reissues they've done are absolutely fantastic and were released after Universal Music Group absorbed Sanctuary) and its founders left. Still, that bitter sting of the loss of a very special kind of release company certainly informed my perception of this cock-up.

Some elements were filled with digital glitches, others with pops, crackles and other vinyl artifacts. CDtext had typoes and incorrect titles, two incorrect tracks were placed at the end of the Brotherhood reissue, and so on. Rhino fortunately admitted the mistake and set up a program to issue the corrected (primarily second) discs for the series, and slowly released corrected copies to retail and online distributors. The discussion about all of this goes on in that thread for pages and pages--from 2008 when they first appeared on until this year, 2012.

I've been fortunate enough that all of my copies are corrected so far, though most of the problems seemed to stem from the UK's production run first and foremost. Still, it's a mess--the original discs were never recalled, so any store that holds onto stock indefinitely and hasn't sold them could still be sitting on some of these abysmal things, and it's a crapshoot what you will get if you buy them in some places.

Rumours abound about the method by which one can determine which copies are which, but others have noted and I've confirmed myself that none of them are definitive. Some have suggested that spines that state "This reissue ®..." are faulty. All of mine say this. Others have said that the slipsleeves that adorn many "collector's edition" CDs are also a designator, but just today I purchased Brotherhood and Movement in those sleeves and, while I only opened the first, it was indeed pristine. Further, it has been suggested that the generic second booklet included with the reissues that contains details about the origins of the bonus tracks on each of the releases is only and always present in the corrected sets. Well, so much for that--my Brotherhood fails that test as well.

In other words, the disc matrices are the only way to know for certain if someone has found the correct versions. This is extra messy as they seem to vary between the UK and the US, with little resemblance to each other. Brotherhood second discs ought to say "R2 516183-2.2 RE-1 01" around the center of the underside of the disc, for instance, if they are US issues.

So, unfortunately, I can't give you exact details on what to look for. None of the external markers seem to be consistent, making an annoying and disappointing situation that much worse, though it seems everyone has reasonably filtered their stock after three to four years of release time.

It's a shame, as I've found my appreciation growing for the band as I go--but that's something to discuss another day.


  1. GWAR. That is all.

  2. In the past month-ish, Joy Division has popped up in my life in: a bar with a bunch of guys watching a hockey game, at a museum, and in a quilt store. No, really. Not making this up.

    A propos of nothing, glad to see someone taking the time/making the effort to write in-depth. Facebook is fun, but superficial (and I mean that in a good way-- short, funny, sharp. There's probably a better word).

    I recently attended a con that had a panel called "Is LiveJournal Still Relevant?" so it's nice to know people are thinking about the issue. And by "thinking about it" I mean agreeing with me.

  3. In a sense, this format necessitates a certain kind of focus. Well, I guess it isn't necessary, exactly, but the format encourages it.

    That said: a bar playing JD? A museum? A quilt store?

    What in the flaming hell?


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