Track Exchange: "The Age of Consent", by New Order

All right, a track from New Order - the band whose relationship to Joy Division I can never QUITE remember. I hadn't knowingly heard this song before, which is surprising since it's number two in Spotify's New Order Top 5, nestled between "Blue Monday" and "Bizarre Love Triangle." 

First Response:

First impression is that "Age of Consent" is vastly more human-sounding than either of those songs. When it opens with that guitar riff, it could be an Allman Brothers song. When the drum kicks in with that twitchy hi-hat it becomes clear that we're not listening to country-rock, but even so, the song's "electronic" elements are subtle - except for one singularly un-subtle synth line which sounds extremely 1980s - and the processing on that The processing on the "Oh-oh!" at about 3:20. Other than that, though, the song is electronic in form (it's structured in layers that come in and out rather than verse-chorus) rather than instrumentation. 

Now, I want to make it clear that I'm not trying to criticize the "music for robots" style that I associate with New Order - I love that stuff. But the "humaneness" of "Age of Consent" is striking, especially because for much of the song the singer is audibly at the top of his range. I love this sound (when it works). The Four Tops used this to brilliant effect, pushing Levi Stubbs' voice absolutely to the top of its range (you can read about it here). Also, that distorted, slightly out-of-time guitar that drifts in and out at about 2:45. 

Next listen (the following morning).

As I type this, I'm listening to this again the following morning, and maybe it's because it's Friday, but all I'm thinking is "road trip." Or, more specifically, "road trip movie montage." 

Why I chose my song:

So my song was "Village Ghetto Land" by Stevie Wonder. I chose it because the end of "The Drugs Don't Work" reminded me of it. But there was no question that I'd be offering a Stevie Wonder song to Track Exchange before too long, because he's incredible. My brother pointed out years ago that it's a great instance of form and content clashing with each other really effectively - because it's such a pretty, delicate melody. But it's understated enough that it doesn't fall into what I think of as the "creepy nursery rhyme" cliche beloved of scary movies. The song is genuinely disquieting, because it's genuinely beautiful.

This week's track: David Bowie's cover of "Waiting for the Man", live at the Nassau Coliseum

Jose, I want to applaud you for writing a tribute to Bowie in which you acknowledged your uncertainty about Bowie's music. I personally find that with a lot of his music, I respect it more than I viscerally love it - though he's written some of my favorite songs of all time.

So, I'm choosing a Bowie cover of a Velvet Underground song. If you don't know it, you should probably listen to the original first.. It's here.