Sunday, October 19, 2014

“Regret” by New Order: One of the Most Perfect Pop Songs Ever Made

It’s a bold statement but it’s conviction, not clickbait, that inspires the title. The more I listen to this, the more I like it.

Curiously, I didn’t like the song much at all when I first heard it. As it was released in April 1993  I would have had to have heard this first in California, and I probably wondered why 80s pop was playing on the X-alt station out of Tijuana while the rest of the world was all about grunge and alt-rock. I’m fairly certain I had to have heard “Regret” played on the Armed Forces Radio in Japan while I was there from 1994 through 1997. 

If I’m sounding ambiguous, it’s because I can’t for the life of me remember any particular instance where I’ve heard it. The song has always been “just there.” It wasn’t until decades later in Colorado, when I was listening to a disc from The Brit Box: UK Indie, Shoegaze, and Britpop Gems (now out of print) from the library that I came across this again—and flippin’ loved it.

Took me long enough, eh?

I can’t get over the anachronistic sound. This had to have confused, if not angered a lot of people in 1993, who, like myself, were ecstatically happy to have the brightly colored, slickly packaged, synth-pop 1980s behind them. Unlike a lot of those empty confections, though, this song endures. It’s no accident that “Regret’s” single guitar riff and Peter Hook’s driving, proactive bass make it happen, with the synthesizer chords merely providing atmospheric backup, like the very moods of the sky under which everyone else is playing. Add Bernard Sumner’s plaintive, very 1980s voice (as opposed to that 1990s slur/growl) singing lyrics in which the character dreams of a place to call his own—that universal ache to live like “real people,” whoever they are—and you’ve got a song for the ages. 

Especially for mid- to late-October Sundays when the sky is bright, the sun is warm, but there’s a shivery chill to the wind, and we’ll have to clean up these leaves eventually. But only when the wind dies down, the sky closes over gray, and the gold of these leaves fades to dull , crumbling brown. 

Meanwhile, let’s enjoy the color and the sunshine and the mood before it all bleeds away.