Sunday, October 16, 2016

New Order- Play at Home (1984)

Weird BBC Doc where bands were supposed to film themselves "playing at home" with little other stipulations or instructions attached.  What follows is essentially a kind of less surreal Great Rock N' Roll Schwindle for Factory Records.  A naked Tony Wilson is front and center, presented in parodic form as both a cutthroat capitalist and a pretentious Hegel/Che/Gramsci quoting intellectual fart (the effort of which reminded me at times of the insufferable referentiality-as-substance art pose of a James Franco, particularly given how Wilson was a TV personality, albeit one who actually knew his work and used as an, ahem, ideal for living).  Gretton, Hannett, Erasmus and co. also feature, in smaller roles and the film circles about Manchester visiting some of the haunts infamous to any one intrigued by the Factory story.

It's unclear how familiar anyone at the time would have been able to see all this as some giant lark.  How much the Factory/New Order story was disseminated by this point?  New Order were no doubt one of the largest in the world in the year after '83, but how much of that passed on to their manager, label, labelmates (A Certain Ratio, who feature as well), and nightclub (The Hacienda, which if Wilson is to be believed was largely a failure when it first opened)?  It's unclear whether this was just a meaningless spoof, a Situationist plant of misinfo, or just an arbitrary setpiece to the grand saga of substance indulgence?

Certainly, the performances seem like they must either been mistakes or self-sabotage.  The live footage of "Lonesome Tonight" and "Thieves Like Us" is gaaawdawful, like a bunch of drunk amateurs all of the lot except f or power couple Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert.  Sumner in particular sounds like he's in some semi-conscious state.

It's not a surprise that this stayed hidden for so long.  It was probably intended to live and die in an era before mass reproduction. Perhaps one reason it never got listed as a Factory Records artifact, as other things such as a hair salon and an imagined but never released computer software game did in the same year.

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