New Order Brotherhood
“The dispute with Brotherhood was that the acoustic tracks were too acoustic, the electronic tracks were too electronic – and it was becoming a bit of a divisive way of writing. They were either all acoustic, or all electronic. We’d sort of lost the middle ground that we had with Power, Corruption and Lies and Low-Life. So what we did was split it into two, and we had an acoustic side to pacify me and then the electronic side to pacify Bernard. It seems a long long way away, another world – especially today and the fracas I’m having with New Order at the moment. But no, I remember it fondly – and there aren’t a lot of New Order albums I can say that about. But that one gives me a warm glow, shall we say.”
Peter Hook, Bass
New Order were on the cusp of a seismic shift when they recorded Brotherhood. It was their transition album, a record that marked the cutting of their ties with Joy Division. They had formed in 1980, after the suicide of Joy Division’s lead singer Ian Curtis. But by the end of the decade they’d established themselves as one of the 80s most influential bands – mixing new wave with electronic dance and bringing the sound of New York’s club scene to the UK. New Order’s fourth studio album, Brotherhood, was recorded at 3 different studios and released in September 1986, and contained a mix of both post-punk and electronic styles. It often sounds as though it was recorded before Curtis’ departure – but with a different vocalist.
Brotherhood was an album that made the most of being on vinyl, with side one featuring indie/rock tunes and side two featuring swathes of dance/electronica. In places, it was ballsy and aggressive, with Peter Hook’s wild bass slinging grooves being given space in which to breathe. Crucially, Brotherhood was a spring board. It was a record that lacked direction as the band struggled to shake off the sounds that they’d grown up on. They were reaching for a different style and sound, without quite knowing what that might be.
It hit number one on the UK indie chart and climbed into the top ten of the main chart. It was released in the pre-Acid House epoch and provided the platform from which New Order soared into the stratosphere. It was followed by the release of the single State of the Nation, and the track Shellshock, which appeared in the film Pretty in Pink. Although the album is not generally acknowledged as a classic in their back catalogue – its merits include the wonderfully named single Bizarre Love Triangle, which is still played live by the band almost 30 years later. With Brotherhood the band were beginning to get to grips with new sampling technology in the studio – and the cracks were starting to show in the relationship between Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner.
Though Brotherhood was not the band’s finest album, it marked a critical stage in their development. They were steering away from the Joy Division-esque sound that had previously dominated their work. Embracing a druggier, more radical, dance-oriented sound, New Order were on the cusp of international success. The songs featured on side one of Brotherhood, showcased the band’s indie and rock leanings, but were soon to be replaced by the melodic, bass-driven workouts that featured on side two. Bizarre Love Triangle remains one of the band’s great songs and hints at a band on the verge of greatness.
Bernard Sumner, New Order / Stephen Morris, New Order / Peter Hook, New Order / Daniel Miller, Mute Records / Neil Hollins, Birmingham School of Media / Clint Boon, Xfm Manchester, Inspiral Carpets / Stephen Street, Engineer, Producer / Mark Sutherland, Music Journalist / Tim Burgess, The Charlatans / Mannie, The Stone Roses, Primal Scream / Shaun Ryder, Happy Mondays / Presenters; Ian Camfield, Clint Boon / Assistant Producer; Oliver Carter / Exec. Producers; Andy Ashton, Mike Walsh