New Order: Decades (Showtime, Friday, December 27 at 7:30/6:30 Central) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, April 4th, 2020  

New Order: Decades

Showtime, Friday, December 27 at 7:30/6:30 Central

Dec 27, 2019 Web Exclusive
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Decades, the latest documentary in the few made about New Order and Joy Division, didn't need to be made, mainly because it suffers from identity crisis. The summary for Decades says the focus is on the group preparing their unique project, "So It Goes," a creative collaboration with artist Liam Gillick, which revolves around a performance with a 12-piece synthesizer orchestra. This is obviously a highly original idea and New Order is the best group to venture this experiment, and they did a fantastic job executing it. The problem is that the film is all over the place.

Portrayals of the creative process can either feel like an insider look into the pain and joy, or, they can feel like tedious, unfocused rambling. Unfortunately, Decades is the latter. It starts with the members of New Order, both original and later, standing around and talking about how the idea came about, except it feels like you've joined the conversation partway in.

There are new narratives constantly being started in the 90-minute film. Suddenly we're back when Joy Division had their first television performance. What does this have to do with anything? Then we're talking about drummer Stephen Morris' affinity for studios and technology. Then we're watching the live show. Then we're talking about the death of Joy Division's Ian Curtis. Then we're talking about how to find the 12 musicians needed for the synthesizer orchestra. Then we're talking about when Gillian Gilbert joined the band. Then we're talking about Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton, both long dead for years, at two different points. Then we're watching some more live footage. Then we're talking to writer Jon Savage and then to broadcaster Dave Haslam. Then we're talking to the synthesizer players about their experience. Then iconic artist Peter Saville is talking about such a distant past, barely making an effort to connect it to the current artistic project. Then we're looking at drawings from Gillick and his explanations. Then we're looking at the show being built, which is excruciatingly boring.

The live album recorded at the Manchester International Festival and released this past summer is a fresh perspective on New Order's catalogue and worth the listen. And if you caught the show in person, lucky you, it is spectacular as Decades depicts, maybe it should have been a concert film only. But if you're interested in a contextual New Order and/or Joy Division back-story, your time is better spent watching the documentaries New Order Story (1993) and Joy Division (2007) topped off with the biopic Control.

Peter Hook is of course absent from Decades, as his acrimonious 10+ years of separation from New Order, specifically, Bernard Sumner, is the stuff of rock 'n' roll legend. But one can't help but wonder if Hooky were still part of the band, interjecting his gruff and unapologetic commentary, would Decades still be as dull as it is? (www.sho.com)

Author rating: 3/10

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