New Order – Music Complete
An essential album that plugs into the best of what New Order do
Thirty five years after their creation from the embers of Joy Division, it’s debatable whether a new New Order album might be what the world needs right now. It’s been a decade since they last released music together, unless you count 2013’s Lost Sirens, essentially an offcuts package from 2005’s Waiting for the Siren’s Call. In that time they’ve lost Peter Hook, whose meaty basslines were one of the most pleasing features of a New Order sound which has been treading water in an entirely agreeable fashion this millennium.
The record starts with the previously-released comeback single ‘Restless’, and musically it doesn’t break new ground, with jangling acoustic guitar laid over Stephen Morris’ brisk, pattering drums and Gillian Gilbert’s swooning synths. The lyrics are prime Bernard Sumner, a bittersweet ode to restlessness and the overwhelming expectations of success, with one surge into unexpected darkness with the line ‘the fiscal climate isn’t looking good / get out of town, the streets are running rivers full of blood’.
‘Singularity’ is where the script slips slightly, a typically surging, synth-laden New Order track, but one with a vibrant, clubby breakdown in the middle and a generally moody tone which hints at the industrial sound of Joy Division days. And this is the point at which it gets rather wonderful. The scything electronic note which opens ‘Plastic’ gives way to a light-touch, Moroder-influenced club track heated up by hollering female backing vocals, and ‘Tutti Frutti’- a most un-New Order name – fuses Sumner’s wistful lyricism with a squelchy, Pet Shop Boys-style synth-pop backing.
‘People on the High Line’ is just brilliant, a loose, punky disco-funk track which echoes early Factory Records with its ringing house piano lines and Paradise Garage via ‘Undercover of the Night’ with its dense bass groove. These three tracks, in particular, are a throwback to New Order’s most joyous glory days in the mid to late ‘80s, all wide-eyed and full of love in Ibiza, and together with ‘Stray Dog’ – grizzly Delta blues meets John Carpenter, with Iggy Pop on drawled vocals – they’re the most essential things here.
Throughout, though, it’s that word which rings true; ‘essential’. This album feels like the first record New Order have created in more than 20 years which plugs into the very best of what they do. it’s not all perfect; ‘’Academic’ is fairly perfunctory, ‘Unlearn This Hatred’ and ‘The Game’ are brisk and lively, if by-the-numbers, and Brandon Flowers’ presence on ‘Superheated’ feels a little gimmicky. But yes, the world should be very happy that what it has right now is a new New Order album.
Released Fri 25 Sep on Mute.