Crystal

One evening, a long time and several careers and what seems like almost half a lifetime ago when I worked in disaster management, I was called in to monitor a situation through the night. This call came after a long day at work then trying, with little energy left, to be present for my family despite the never-ending tyranny of the urgent.

That night, I took a few CDs to play on my laptop, to help keep me awake and break the anticipated monotony of what I figured was going to be a long and uneventful night. (It was indeed both; thankfully nothing bad happened… actually nothing at all happened.) One of the CDs in my bag was Get Ready (an apt choice I think, for an industry built on preparedness), a then recent release by the UK’s New Order, a post-punk group that combined electronic and dance music in a period when many nightclubs thrived on dancing (and drinking) patrons.

“Crystal” is the first track on the 2001 album, and was the band’s first studio album in eight years. It’s a much quicker tempo with much more guitar than most New Order songs, and has been described as the “confident, strutting return of a band that knows that the music industry has missed it” (from a review by Drowned in Sound).

I played the song many times, and the steady beat did help break the dullness of the long night with not a soul to talk with — for most of it, except a call to a higher-up who would not usually speak to a minor operative like me. During the music, there may even have been some air-band playing, though I remained vigilant to my duties.

New Order is a band that came to me through the friends I’ve told you about before (most recently on February 21, 2020)… the group that had expanded from my St. Norbert pals into St. Vital; my “friends 2.0,” to use current jargon. Other than the St. Norbert one who became a musician for a while, I think most of the 1980s influence I had in musical taste came from the cool kids in north St. Vital. I seem to remember they were the ones who put me on to New Order and other bands of that ilk. New Order’s hits at the time were “Your Silent Face” and “Blue Monday” then later, “Love Vigilantes,” and “The Perfect Kiss.” (As an aside, I recently had a chat with a long-distance friend with whom I connect every day, and we wrote back and forth about “Blue Monday” folders… collections of letters, notes, etc. that bring us joy — and brought me joy when I dug my folder out the other day… but, I digress.)

By the time that Get Ready came out, it had been years since I had an active interest in the band, but enjoyed it nonetheless. I must say, though, my favourite album — from a musical as well as an aesthetic standpoint — was Low-life. The LP album is among my favourite covers. The front and back covers, and inside front and back of the sleeve are portraits of the band members. The back cover photo of keyboard player Gillian Gilbert and paper overlay are a stunning combination, I think.

Back cover of New Order’s 1985 album, “Low-life.”

And, one of those moments of serendipity: 

The video produced to promote the single “Crystal” portrays a fictitious and (much) younger band miming New Order’s studio recording of the song. Many viewers mistook the video band as being New Order themselves, although the group were all were in their 40s by that time, and the video band members look like they’re in high school (super high energy, wow… but their guitars are strapped way too low, as if spoofing rock bands…). So the serendipity part is, on Wednesday when I found the video, Sweety and I were going out that evening to see the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre production of Women of the Fur Trade. The set of the play is a depiction of Fort Gibraltar, a frame inside of which there is a room, with three rocking chairs, belonging to wives of fur traders. Behind the chairs, in a square pattern, are twelve headshots of people of historical significance, ranging from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Keanu Reeves and others notable before and after them. I couldn’t identify some of the photo subjects, but through a quote of his shared by one of the characters, one is Brandon Flowers. Flowers was in a band called the Killers. The band Killers took their name from the bass drum in the video New Order produced for “Crystal” — the video I saw for the first time, just a couple of hours before going out to the play. Life is like that sometimes. A lot of the time, actually.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. 

Here’s the official video, as described above, from New Order’s Youtube channel:  

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