Why ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ is New Order’s finest pop moment

There’s something about ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ which screams “pure pop”. The combination of the high ended keyboards, the precise drums and Hooky’s counter melody bass work instantly brings a smile to the face, unlike any other N.O. track.

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Chronologically sandwiched between the sleek funk of previous single ‘State Of The Nation’ and the urgent ‘True Faith’, ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ may have appeared lightweight in comparison, but it’s that exact simplicity which makes it New Order’s greatest straight forward pop statement (‘Blue Monday’ was avant-garde by comparison).

This being said, when it was released in 1986, the single failed to reach the Top 40 (it got to a pretty poor No. 56). Astonishing when you listen to the track now and think about the fact that it’s a cornerstone single which pretty much defined a particular synth sound from the 80s.

But what’s the song about? Trying to find some meaning within Bernard Sumner’s lyrics is often a fruitless pursuit. Reading his words without the music you’re struck by their naïve sweetness. The love struck boy who gets the fuzzy “bolt of blue” feeling when the object of his desire comes into his mind. He’s trying to escape his past and grasp onto an imagined moment in the future when he can tell his crush “We’re meant to be.” Past and future are intertwined in a deliciously loopy cycle.
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The true inspiration for the song may be far less pure and angelic however. The film maker Carol Morley (Dreams Of A Life) revealed in the DVD commentary of her film about her misspent Manchester youth The Alcohol Years that she believed the track to be about an incident involving her and a truck driver.

Carol and friend were dared by New Order to proposition a truckie which they did, resulting in her and said friend putting on a ‘display’ for the driver. Given their history, mixing the bright and sparkling production with these dark lyrics makes perfect, if far fetched, sense.

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Although over shadowed by ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘True Faith’, ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ has made a home for itself in the New Order pantheon. When asked what his favourite New Order track was, drummer Stephen Morris told GQ: “Just at this moment it’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’.” Meanwhile stills from the promo video were featured in the V&A’s Postmodernism exhibition (the key lyric here was perhaps: “Why can’t we be ourselves/ Like we were yesterday?”).

The song was covered by Australian band Frente! in acoustic form and Gwen Stefani’s ‘The Real Thing’ (which featured Sumner and Hooky) was a virtual note-by-note retread of the song.

Still it’s the freshness of the song that continues to entice and amaze, which, 30 years after the fact, is pretty special.