New Order – Bizarre Love Triangle
The best pop should be exciting – it should make you run around the house or hurtle to the dance floor as soon as you hear the opening bars, and it should make you tell everybody you possibly can about this amazing record you’ve discovered. The song that embodies this feeling for me more than any other is Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order. I’m going with the version I heard first, which is pretty much the definitive version nowadays – the Shep Pettibone 12″ remix.
It’s tempting to remember New Order as having had a better chart history than they actually managed – but if you look into it you discover only seven top 10 hits, and two of those were remixes of songs that had already achieved the feat (Blue Monday and True Faith, respectively.) It’s a similar problem to the one that plagued The Smiths – they too had an astonishing run of faultless singles, and hindsight would suggest they were all huge – but many of them actually struggled to scale the charts. It’s probably no coincidence that both bands were on indie labels (Factory and Rough Trade) who lacked the marketing clout of the majors – but as we entered the era of the wine bar, New Order – who always came across rather like the Bash Street Kids of pop – were perhaps a bit too (gloriously) shambolic to be entirely mainstream.
Bizarre Love Triangle – and I mean this in the best possible way – marked the first time I thought a record sounded digital. It was an entirely new experience for me – those reverberating bleeps and bloops threading their way through Peter Hook‘s unmistakable bass, and the swirling synth line that rose and fell like an adrenalin wave. I’m listening to it as I write this it still has the same effect on me – it makes me shake with excitement.
Looking at the chart landscape of the time, it’s a bit of a battleground. On the one hand you have Mel and Kim making their bid for greatness with Showing Out and Swing Out Sister dazzling with Breakout. On the other you have two records by cast members from EastEnders inside the top 20, and both Status Quo and Shakin’ Stevens were still huge. It was an odd period, just prior to Stock Aitken and Waterman‘s bloody coup which left few of the old guard standing. But for New Order, Bizarre Love Triangle was only the prelude to their greatest success – and a strong contender for most perfect pop single ever – 1987’s True Faith.
Entered chart: 09/11/1986
Chart peak: 56
Weeks on chart: 2
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Years & Years. I’m not saying it would be any good, but it would be a smash.