‘Touched by the Hand of God’ by New Order
From the Salvation! OST (1987)
I don’t want to sound overly philosophical, but life is full of weird coincidences and it seems that the following series of coincidences means that I have to write about New Order this week –
- I have recently been reading a book about Factory Records (Mick Middles’ Factory – not very engaging).
- New Order have announced a tour and new album, releasing the first single, ‘Restless’ over the past month.
- I picked up four New Order 12” singles, including ‘Touched by the Hand of God’, at my local record store (the brilliant Truck Store) last week They were not there the week before.
- My friend, unwittingly name-checking a New Order song in saying that things get ‘spooky’ as autumn comes around.
New Order are enduringly one of my favourite bands and have been since since my dad first played (the best of) tape (yes, tape) to me as we were driving to France in his lorry in the mid/late 1990s. One of the many things that I love about the band is that, due to the sheer volume of releases, remixes, soundtrack appearances, films made about Joy Division, Factory Records, etc., I always seem to hear something that I’ve never heard before or have never really paid attention to. I will also never turn down the opportunity to buy New Order vinyl, hence why I ended up with FAC193 spinning on my record player least weekend.
The release of ‘Touched…’ as a single at the back end of 1987 sits at the tipping point of New Order going almost full synth. As Wikipedia reliably notes, the following album by the band, Technique, ‘was heavily influenced by the Balearic sounds of Ibiza making their way into the Hacienda’, I’d say that it was more of a reciprocal process. Early Balearic sound was characterised, to a point, by English acts such as The Woodentops and Thrashing Doves, as well as sounds coming out of the Netherlands and Germany, which New Order had an ear to through links with Annik Honore and Factory Benelux.
‘Touched…’ It still retains the standard New Order nuances, such as the machine-tight drums and driving bass (one of my favourite bits of the song is the bass kicking in, 0.18 in the video above), plus Bernard Sumner’s inability to hit high notes (‘hand’ in the chorus stands out) but the way that the synth lines sit aggressively at the forefront of the song suggests a shift in lead instrument from guitar to the synthesiser (a shift which was only reversed on 2001’s Get Ready) which had been building all the way throughout the band’s career.
I’m aware that I am rambling, so I’ll wrap up with a special mention for the music video for this song, a hilarious send-up of hair metal bands and the big-budget videos typical for the genre. I had to do a double take when I realised that it was directed by future Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow and stars Rae Dawn Chong (Commando, The Color Purple) and Bill Paxton (Apollo 13, Twister, True Lies).
There are so many New Order songs I could have picked for this week; ‘True Faith’ (my dad’s funeral song, apparently), ‘Blue Monday’, ‘Shellshock’, ‘Crystal’, the aforementioned ‘Spooky’, the list is endless. If you’ve never invested much time in listening to the band’s back catalogue they are truly one of the great innovators of music in the last 35 years and you are bound to find something, if not everything, that you like in there.