New Order get older gracefully

New Order Reading Festival `Celebrity Skin': Hole (Geffen, CD)

The Beastie Boys were fantastic, Lee "Scratch" Perry was loopy, and Keith Flint from the Prodigy looked like Nosferatu in knitwear. But if this year's Reading Festival is remembered for anything, it'll be for the sunshine. It was the only rock festival of the summer - and I use that term loosely - which did not necessitate a wet suit, an oxygen cylinder and flippers, meaning that even if the Barron Knights had headlined, it would still have been more fun than Glastonbury.

If Reading is remembered for anything else, it'll be for the reunion of New Order - and they were pretty sunny, too. With an alarming cry of "let's rock the fucking house", Bernard Sumner set about trampling on his image as the most miserable man on Planet Pop. He punched the air, skipped on the spot in an approximation of dancing, punctuated his vocals with high-pitched whoops, and shared a brotherly handshake with Peter Hook, the bassist, after "True Faith". Apart from a warm-up gig in Manchester in July, this was New Order's first show since 1993's Reading Festival and they were as happy to be back as the crowd were to see them. The band revelled in their old material, even playing a rocked-up "Love Will Tear Us Apart" among other Joy Division songs, and producing Keith Allen from a cage to do some guest clowning on "World in Motion". You'd suspect they were imposters if it weren't for keyboardist Gillian Gilbert, who maintained the demeanour of a woman halfway through her eight-hour shift behind the till at Tesco's. Some things don't change.

As tight and professional as if they'd been in a rehearsal studio for the past five years - instead of biding their time in Electronic (in Sumner's case) or in Monaco, Mrs Merton's house band and the pages of the tabloids (in Hook's case) - New Order didn't seem as if they'd been out of action. The only indication that they've been away is that, like any band who sounded futuristic in the Eighties, they now sound very Eighties and not very futuristic. The ghosts of Gary Numan and Ultravox lurked in every synthesiser bleep, and Sumner's scratchy, unrock guitar skittered across the field in U2 and Simple Minds (un)fashion.

None the less, the band still offered a vision of an alternative universe in which they didn't step aside and let the Britpop youngsters have their shot at the top. If New Order had kept going into the era of New Labour, we might now have international stars who pioneer dance beats, instead of borrowing them after the event to pep up their credibility; and a band who marry the scale of stadium rock with indie-issue introspection and melancholy. It remains to be seen how long the reunion lasts, and whether this is a vision of what might have been or what might yet be.

A group who have been absent for almost as long are Hole, but they have some good excuses. Their last album, 1994's Live Through This, was released just as their leader's husband shot himself; and their bassist, Kristin Pfaff, died two months later. You don't have to listen very carefully to their new album, Celebrity Skin, to pick up lyrics about bereavement. Kurt Cobain's suicide note said: "The worst crime is faking it ... It's better to burn out than to fade away." In "Reasons to Be Beautiful", Courtney Love argues with him: "When the fire goes out you better learn to fake / It's better to rise than fade away." What's uncharacteristic is that she addresses the topic with more positivity and tenderness than rage.

A more significant influence on the band than these deaths, perhaps, is Love's makeover as a Hollywood player. Today, fewer people know her as a rock chick than as a widow, socialite and film star (willingly in The People Vs Larry Flint, less willingly in Nick Broomfield's Kurt & Courtney documentary), and her anti-melodic punk principles now mean less to her than getting some credit in the straight world.

Celebrity Skin, then, sits at the exact mid-point between seething, spitting grunge and Californian, girl- group soft rock. Written by Love and guitarist Eric Erlandson with help from the Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan, the songs resemble those of Aerosmith and Fleetwood Mac, except with more attitude and crunchier basslines. "Awful", the first post-grunge pop tune to be inspired by a Dick Emery catchphrase, sounds like the Bangles. "Heaven Tonight" and "Malibu" could be smash hits for Belinda Carlisle. Indeed, at least six out of the 12 tracks here could be smash hits for Hole. Even when you consider how much easier on the ear Live Through This was than Hole's debut, Pretty on the Inside, it's still a shock to catch yourself humming along to this radio-friendly shiny metal.

The transition isn't perfectly smooth. When Love is called upon to sing instead of shout, her witchy, abrasive voice is exposed as being gratingly flat, and the odd bit of lead guitar would have made for a welcome contrast with the chugging rhythm parts. Even so, no album so far this year has been more obviously destined to sell millions. Prepare for Love to conquer all.

`Celebrity Skin' is released tomorrow.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape