A box set that reveals a legendary act searching for their unmistakeable sound.
This box set, though, suggests that things weren't quite as simple as that. Sometimes demo material on a deluxe edition appeals only to hardcore fans, making sense only if you know the songs inside out already, with very little obvious value. Not here. The demos and live videos are of the highest quality, and even for the casually interested they bring the songs, and the band, to life. In fact, the serious fans will already be familiar with much of this material—it's been bootlegged and spread online—but for those who aren't it's well worth digging into.
The demos and live tracks actually sound more like New Order than the released album. Or more accurately, they sound less like Joy Division. According to legend, Hannett pushed the experimental envelope with Joy Division, moving them further away from the Stooges-y thrash of their first incarnation, Warsaw, towards using the studio as an instrument. But here, it looks like Hannett actually dialled back the experimentation heard in the demos, turned up the guitars, and kept the band more or less in the same lane they already were in.
Compare the released and demo versions of "The Him," "Senses" and "Dreams Never End," and consistently the demos are more intimate and fragile, as close to Young Marble Giants as to the gothic doom of Joy Division. And on "Are You Ready For This?"—a live jam with Cabaret Voltaire, featuring New Order's manager, Rob Gretton, on dubbed-out, slightly goofy vocals—you can hear an absolute love of the possibilities of electronics for their own sake, and even a hint of club-inspired funkiness. All in all, it feels like the debut album would have been a more exciting proposition had the band been left to their own devices in the studio.
Then again, maybe they needed to exorcise the spirit of Joy Division (and, sadly, the relationship with Hannett) to reach the point they did. Because though the demos are fresh and fascinating, Sumner hadn't found his singing voice in them, nor had they hit the plaintive melodic perfection that would send them to the big time. An alternate mix of "Temptation" shows how big the leap to full New Order would be (the singles that followed are being reissued too). However, in the experiments this box set highlights, you can detect the essence of the post-punk era: punk's can-do spirit evolving moment by moment into something more refined and specialised. It's magical to hear.
Sun / 28 Apr 2019
01. Dreams Never End
04. Chosen Time
06. The Him
07. Doubts Even Here
01. Dreams Never End (Western Works Demo)
02. Homage (Western Works Demo)
03. Ceremony (Western Works Demo)
04. Truth (Western Works Demo)
05. Are You Ready For This? (Western Works Demo)
06. The Him (Cargo Demo)
07. Senses (Cargo Demo)
08. Truth (Cargo Demo)
09. Dreams Never End (Cargo Demo)
10. Mesh (Cargo Demo)
11. ICB (Cargo Demo)
12. Procession (Cargo Demo)
13. Cries And Whispers (Cargo Demo)
14. Doubts Even Here (Instrumental) (Cargo Demo)
15. Ceremony (1st Mix - Ceremony Sessions)
16. Temptation (Alternative 7)
17. Procession (Rehearsal Recording)
18. Chosen Time (Rehearsal Recording)