New Order, “Love Vigilantes”

First of all, it has a great title, one that grabs you immediately even if it has only an impressionistic connection to the song itself. Then there’s the music, as propulsive, melodic and tough as anything that came out of the British New Wave era. But what ultimately makes “Love Vigilantes” one of New Order’s most memorable tracks is a story with a kind of choose-your-own-interpretation ending.

“Love Vigilantes” is the first song on New Order’s third album, 1985’s Low-Life. It’s a record that established the band’s own unique potency and helped to legitimize the quartet as its own entity separate from Joy Division, its original incarnation. The song is attributed to all four band members (Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert), although the idea and lyrics sprung mainly from singer and guitarist Sumner.

The song’s first lines set you up for a patriotic anthem, especially when heard against the backdrop of the invigorating music: “Oh I’ve just come/From the land of the sun/From a war that must be won/In the name of truth.” Still there are clues that Sumner has something else up his sleeve. For example, there’s the way that violence is juxtaposed with grace in the second verse: “With our rifles and grenades/And some help from God.” In the refrain, the soldier telling the story pulls away from his honor and duty to express what’s in his heart: “I want to see my family/My wife and child waiting for me.”

In the second verse, the soldier joyfully recounts that he has been given the opportunity to return home from the battlefield. “For my... Sign In to Keep Reading

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