New Order is one of the few bands I’ve loved since childhood and continue to do so well into my adult years. The band’s nervy, dystopian take on synth pop was almost a template for my nascent tastes, mixing deep bass grooves, crystalline synthesizer tones, frantic guitar work, and abstract lyrics about love, loss, society, and other fun nonsense.
In my humble opinion, 1985’s Low-Life was the pinnacle of this style, mixing hard dancefloor impulses with sweeping romanticism to unbelievable perfection. The lead single, The Perfect Kiss, came with an appropriately deadpan video directed by Jonathan Demme. Behold:
It’s astonishing to watch this group create one of the most iconic songs of the decade, then step back with nearly bored expressions on their faces. They have no clue the importance of the art they’re creating. Or maybe it’s all just part of their act. Either way, it’s a brilliant visual counterpoint to the explosive energy of the song itself, a tightly wound rhythm machine that builds, erupts, subsumes itself, and utterly blasts away over the course of its nine epic minutes.
I’ve always prefer the 12″ single version of New Order’s best songs. Unlike most club mixes of popular singles, they never simply padded out the runtime with looped beats and 4/4 filler. These songs were carefully sculpted journeys, meant to evoke a range of feeling through their extended arcs. Percussion breakdowns, exploratory bass runs, and then-state-of-the-art computer effects conspire to flesh out the experience, turning radio candy into emotional odysseys. This song is a grand example, nearly doubling the length of the album cut with essential moments of rhythmic bliss and instrumental fireworks. With a groove so infectious, we simply don’t want to let it end. The band knowingly obliges, over and over.
The Perfect Kiss is a perfect pop tune.