This past week saw the public debut of material by Bad Lieutenant, as the band uploaded the track “Sink or Swim” on its MySpace page. Bad Lieutenant is the new group formed by singer/guitarist Bernard Sumner, after the dissolution of his previous band New Order by bassist Peter Hook in 2007. The breakup is an interesting story in of itself, as Hook went around telling interviewers that the group was over while his bandmates expressed surprise and bafflement over his remarks for months on end.
While the group features latter-day New Order guitarist Phil Cunningham and contributions from stalwart Joy Division/New Order drummer Stephen Morris, the impression is that Bad Lieutenant is very much Sumner’s band. “Sink or Swim” is a decent start, if not a particularly striking one, not sounding out of place among material by British indie bands more than half Sumner’s age. The song takes advantage of the fact that a bassist of Hook’s caliber is not laying down the central melody, instead letting guitarist Jake Evans weave winding leads throughout. While Sumner has never been the greatest singer in the world, there’s a certain charm to his soft, average-guy-singing-in-the-elevator voice, and it suits the song perfectly. Despite the song’s downer lyrics, Sumner sounds quite pleased to be surrounded by so many guitar parts.
The song gets a physical release on September 21, with the group’s debut album Never Cry Another Tear due in October. Meanwhile, Hook has remarked to The Quietus recently that material by his long-gestating Freebass project (featuring fellow Manchester, England bass legends Andy Rourke of The Smiths and Mani of The Stone Roses) is due for release around the same time as Bad Lieutenant’s record. He’s even gone as far as to refer to his potential showdown with his former bandmate as “a bit like a fat version of Blur and Oasis”, referencing the epic UK chart showdown between the Britpop titans for the number one single slot in 1995. Will either of these releases chart that high? Not likely, but at least Bad Lieutenant has so far given the public a glimpse of something promising coming out of the unfortunate end of New Order.