New Order

Music Complete

Mute

Sep 24, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


So after the fights, the recriminations, and the bitter bile subside, a brand new New Order album surfaces. From the outside looking in, there's a touch of Pink Floyd circa 1987 about Music Complete's genesis, with a bitter estranged founding bassist and key member complaining about the right for the band to exist, while the other members attempt to replicate the extraordinary success of previous records. But unlike that band's A Momentary Lapse of Reason, there's nothing clumsy or misconstrued about Music Complete. To the contrary, the album not only preserves New Order's heritage but strides out as an ambitious, fascinating, and profoundly enjoyable record that feels like something of a fitting farewell.

The surprise of Music Concrete comes not from the vast majority of it being typical "late period" New Order, but in the way it combines this expertly with the band's electronic roots. For instance, lead single "Restless" is something of a red herring before the chugging, cut-up electronic textures of "Singularity" and "Plastic" lurch back to the Balearic anxiety of their mid-'80s periodfor the first time since Technique, they are a true electronic band again. The influence of The Chemical Brothers' Tom Rowlands is obvious on "Singularity" (and on the amyl-soaked clashes and bangs of the impressive "Unlearn this Hatred"), but with Gillian Gilbert back in the band for the first time since 2001, there is a notable dusting off of the synthesisers. Whereas 2005's Waiting for the Siren's Call often suffered from the band attempting too hard to write actual songs (never their natural forte), Music Complete succeeds by playing upon the sense of tension and atmosphere that epitomised the band's finest moments. As much as Iggy Pop's distinctive vocals cut plough-lines through "Stray Dog," it is the skilfully-arranged backing track that dances, shimmers, and sways for your attention, including some excellent bass playing from Tom Chapman, who deserves credit for finding his own way to cover the most recognisable low-end in rock music without either changing the band's dynamics or plagiarising Peter Hook's style. The exceptional "Nothing But a Fool" builds from to a dark-edged triumph over its epic eight minutes before there's even time for Brandon Flowers to bring his homage to the band full circle by guesting on the brilliant closing "Superheated"both he and the band sound starkly and strikingly relevant despite the passing years.

There are missteps, sure. Bernard Sumner's predilection of cringe-worthy lyrics continues apace, and the album sags noticeably on the clichéd and white-socks funk pairing of "Tutti Frutti" and "People on the High Line." But for the most part, Music Complete is a resounding success. It's an Indian summer of carefree enjoyment and reconnection to what made New Order one of the finest and most innovative bands of the 1980s. And more than that, after all the dust settles, they still sound like classic New Order. "A pretty fair forgery" was Roger Waters' response upon hearing the "new" Pink Floyd's returning studio album. One can imagine Peter Hook struggling to say the same with a straight face; this is a remarkable and unexpected return to form for a band who continuedecade after decadeto defy the odds. As "Superheated" rushes toward a close, Flowers and Sumner trade off the phrase "Now that it's over..." together, and the feeling stirs that this may be the final goodbye. If that happens to be the case, they've ended one of the most remarkable journeys in musical history on a true high-a comprehensive retrospective of their history within the best collection of songs that they've produced in years. (www.neworder.com)

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