Something of a New Order retrospective box set, Item is a double disc set that's half documentary, half video collection. Presented in Dolby 5.1, 2.0, and PCM stereo, the set features a lengthy compilation of videos running from their debut as New Order through the three singles from their newest offering, Waiting for the Sirens' Call, as well as a reissue of the 1993 documentary NewOrder Story.
The first disc in the set is A Collection, an almost mind-numbingly comprehensive collection of videos, including newly filmed videos for "Temptation" and "Ceremony", the live version of "Temptation" from the 316 DVD, and several alternate takes, including a noteworthy dance remix video for "Crystal" and the infamous Baywatch "Regret" video. If you're counting, that's 29 videos, with a limited personal playlist option included (that, unfortunately, doesn't include all of the videos on the DVD).
The band, notoriously taking a hands-off approach when it came to their videos, allowed most directors and/or producers to carry their videos from conceptualization through completion. Often choosing underground video artists and filmmakers (or even choreographers), what's here, despite being quite lauded by fans, is something of a mixed bag. The most recognizable video is probably "True Faith", an interesting blend of a sign-language speaking rolling ball referee, bouncing guys in vinyl suites, and slapping painted guys in oversized suspenders that was apparently directed by someone who didn't even like the song. A similar method of editing or choreographing to match the rhythm of the song is employed and experimented with throughout much of the band's videography, including the excellent stop motion animation of "Blue Monday". Other videos, like "World" and "Confusion" play out like mini narrative dramas, the latter being far more compelling after reading the story behind it in the liner notes.
Of the disc's other standouts, "The Perfect Kiss" is rather notable, a simple performance video in a white room that's minimalist yet oddly captivating as the band members change instruments and perform their parts in low-key fashion. The Kathryn Bigelow-directed "Touched by the Hand of God" is a hilarious hair metal parody complete with long curly wigs, leather, smoke, and sparks supplement by clips from Bigelow's underground classic vampire flick Near Dark. Fans of The Killers will find the origin of both the band's name and "Somebody Told Me" video concept in the video for "Crystal". "World in Motion", the high-charting 1990 World Cup theme, is, on the other hand, a mish-mash of soccer footage and player cameos that will likely thrill soccer fans and baffle or bore others. Still, while not everything here is unequivocally successful, it's an excellent and lengthy video compilation that offers a unique sense of outside influence and stylistic variety.
The second disc in the set is the 1993 documentary NewOrder Story. Culled from the 138 minute laserdisc version (the original VHS release was trimmed to half that length), it's something of a muddled biography beginning with the band's emergence from the ashes of Joy Division and ending in uncertainty. Note that it is partially constructed from videos, in their entirety or fragmented, contained on the A Collection DVD. Hence, there's a little bit of redundancy here. A handful of the included songs (like "Blue Monday"), however, are live/television performances rather than videos, with exceptional performances of "Temptation" and "Everyone Everywhere" actually being one of the documentary's highlights. The information is presented in the form of narrated introductions, odd faked game show segments, behind-the-scenes footage, and individual and group interviews. Unfortunately, it's not always particularly informative and glosses over a few important periods and events. For instance, the band doesn't like talking about the death of Ian Curtis, so most information on Ian is presented in the form of little tidbits of information, vague narration, a handful of awkward jokes at Ian's expense, and plenty of "no comment" answers. In other words, you won't find a serious 5-minute in-depth discussion of…well…anything here. Still, while the band's sense of humor is at the forefront, there are some interesting tidbits of information amid the occasional bizarre Bono sighting, and those, in addition to amusing interview segments and some good archival live and behind-the-scenes footage, will likely make this disc quite worthwhile for fans.
In the end, there's really no way around it. Item is an obvious must-have for New Order fans. More casual fans or, in particular, newcomers will probably get more enjoyment from the A Collection disc, although the limited live footage and, to a lesser extent, the humor of the documentary may make it worthwhile. Either way, Item is a strong set of classic and not-so-classic material from one of the new wave/alternative/synthpop scenes' most enduring, influential, and interesting acts.