Substance 1987

New Order's acclaimed compilation 30 years on

Thursday 24th August 2017

More than most other bands active in the 1980s, New Order, and their transition from Joy Division became one of the best indicators of thriving modernity in British music and youth culture as post-punk and new romantic began to wane. New Order's 'Substance' (sometimes referred to as 'Substance 1987') represents more than a simple greatest hits collection.

In 1987, 'Substance' brought together New Order's longer and often more electronic/dance orientated 12-inch versions, of all their singles released up to that date, along with their new song 'True Faith'. The record acts as a historical document of the band's troubled origins, their triumphant transformation and the era that spawned them. We take a look at some of the album's highlights.

The album was released with 12 tracks on Vinyl, CD and DAT (Sony's then new groundbreaking high-end audio format) and 16 tracks on cassette making use of the extra playing time available. The album opens with 'Ceremony', a song which dates back to Joy Division, having been performed by the band before Ian Curtis' death. 'Substance' uses the version recorded in September 1981 by which time New Order had recruited Gillian Gilbert as keyboardist/guitarist, and marks the beginning of the familiar New Order line up. 

'Temptation' was released as a single before being included in New Order's '1981-1982' EP, but completely re-recorded in 1987 for inclusion on Substance. In 1996 the song famously became the soundtrack to Renton's nightmarish hallucination in Trainspotting and also inspired filmmaker, and New Order collaborator, Michael Shamberg to make a short film 'The Temptation of Victoria' in 2006. 

Arguably the most famous British 12-inch single of all time and undeniably one of the most important tracks in the evolution of electronic music and dance music, the original 1983 12-inch version of 'Blue Monday' was also included. With its numerous charting incarnations, it was the following year's 'Blue Monday 88', with its William Wegman video, which made it onto 'Substance 1989' the video collection intended to accompany the LP. 

The album 'Power Corruption and Lies' followed New Order's successful and increasingly electronic singles in 1983. New Order's next single 'The Perfect Kiss' was taken from 1985's 'Low Life'. 'The Perfect Kiss' is regarded by fans as one of New Order's finest with many regarding 'Low Life' as the point at which the band's metamorphosis from the post-punk Joy Division becomes more apparent.

Becoming ever more electronic, 1986's 'Shellshock' was inspired in part by 'One More Shot', a 1982 electro record by C-Bank (AKA John Robie). John Robie also produced the track, with the band evidently becoming more influenced by New York's dance music scene.

'Bizarre Love Triangle' was taken from the 1986 album 'Brotherhood' with the 12-inch version remixed by New York producer and DJ Shep Pettibone being the version that appeared on 'Substance'. The band's confident juxtaposition of guitar and electronics now proving to be a solid formula.

Arguably the jewel in the 'Substance' crown, 'True Faith' marked the arrival of the familiar New Order sound and many will think of 'True Faith' along with 'Blue Monday' as the definitive New Order songs of the 1980s. Amidst the scenery of acid house and Madchester, the band found their niche combining their post-punk roots with elements of the ever evolving and continually emerging house music phenomenon.

After 'Substance' New Order maintained their dance/rock direction across 'Technique' in 1989 and 'Republic' in 1993. Sitting out the Britpop years, it would be eight years before the band recorded another studio album in the form of 2001's rockier 'Get Ready'. The latter album seemed to bring Peter Hook's distinctive bass driven style back into play, perhaps more reminiscent of Joy Division than any of the tracks from the 'Substance' period. Despite it being well received 'Get Ready' was the last that New Order made featuring the original line up of Sumner, Gilbert, Hook and Morris.

Related Links

Find out about Manchester Art Gallery's True Fatih exhibition

Visit our list of iconic Peter Saville record covers at

Loading bag contents...