25 Years of Substance

Usually, I don’t do this, I don’t write about single records and not at all about compilations. But this time, it’s different. This time, I’d like to write about a record that was released 25 years ago on this very day and which had a very deep impact on my musical development. I know, no one really wants to read that. But I need to write it, because it’s quite a humble little story. The record I am talking about is Substance by New Order.

Cover of Substance

Cover of Substance by New Order, Source: Wikipedia.org

25 years ago I was 15. I was born in a rural area which is to say that my only contact with music was through radio which at the time meant that you had one station that you could listened to. If you were lucky, late at night, the station would play avantgarde, which meant Heaven 17, Visage, Talk Talk and so on. Or it meant Iron Butterfly and the likes. A few years later, one daring DJ also played Front 242, I remember. Anyway, the other way of contact with music was the single record shop in town, whose arrogant owner thankfully took all our money when we thought that the limited edition Duran Duran twelve inch was really very limited. It wasn’t. Apart from that, growing up in that rural area was the same as growing up in any rural area. Coming to a big city was overwhelming.

So, as you can see, I was quite thrilled when I visited family in Munich with my parents. My cousin (who is a couple of years older) took me to the city. We visited WOM (World of Music), which in the days was a kind of El Dorado for people interested in rock and pop music. At least it was for me. I browsed around the store and on a special shelf I saw a minimal cover that arose interest. I did not know anything about a modern serif typeface, let alone Giambattista Bodoni, but the elegant type on the cover was really interesting. What is more: the letters were embossed. It was a double album, with colorful splashes on the inside and very little information about anything. Very small at the bottom of the back cover it gave some titles: Everything’s Gone Green, Blue Monday, Ceremony, True Faith.

I asked my cousin and he said, yeah, they’re cool, I have a twelve inch and I like it.

What can I say: I bought an album just because of the cover and the fact that my cousin said it was ok.

It was worth every penny. I had never heard anything like this before and it was a turning point in my musical taste. It was rough, danceable (not that I went to discos those days), melodic and every second was interesting. I think that it really influenced all the music that I liked after it. It broadened my horizon. It changed the way I thought about music. It made me a better man. Oh, well, delete that last sentence, it was not going that far. And above all, it deeply influenced everything that I liked about design. I know it’s disputable but I am really all for minimalism.

So, you might say, for 25 years now, New Order and Peter Saville are my musical and design heroes.

(Sorry for that kind of self-adulation…)

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