25 September 2015, New Order Ltd.
Out of the depths of pop ubiquity has proudly stood a band who, since 1980, have produced a distinguished output of considered music. New Order aren’t as cool or indie as their previous incarnation as Joy Division, but have the significant advantage of a much longer life span and have, in their 35 years of recording, developed a number of styles and progressed into a number of genres. While it has been suggested that in the last ten years their music had lost its drive and was becoming turgid – and with the news that legendary bassist Peter Hooke had left the band – some could have been forgiven for approaching this release with some trepidation. Music Complete, has however seen a strong return to form, with a good deal of originality and a number of wonderful moments.
After 10 long years since their last album release Waiting for the Sirens’ Call, it’s fair to say the pre-album single release track was aptly titled for most New Order fans. ‘Restless’ was released some time before the album to drum up anticipation as a promising aperitif to what was to come. It’s a strong track, and one of the picks of the album, the only worry was Hooke-esque bass melody which might have foreshadowed a pastiche impersonation of Hooke’s sound on the whole album, which would have been tedious and pointless. However, in reality, the album strikes a good balance in assimilating new sounds to counteract what has been lost over the years – and the enforced change has worked out for the better.
[Music Complete] is home to some of the best noises to come from New Order since the 1980s
This album is also home to a few New Order collaborations, which are relatively rare and are nothing if not interesting. Iggy Pop performs a macabre spoken word part in ‘Stray Dog’ which is one of the most unusual, yet surprisingly pathetique songs on the whole album, it echoes the spoken word performances of William Shatner with a hint of Tom Waits. One of the less successful elements of the album sees an introduction of more conventional dance/club music production values, which could perhaps be attributed to the input of other distinguished collaborators The Chemical Brothers. ‘Unlearn this Hatred’ is a particular low point for the album, rendering the sentiment of the song somewhat more difficult.
The real success of this album is in its return to an eclectic mix of song styles where each track, regardless of quality, holds a fair degree of interest. There is a good balance between electronics, synth, drums and guitar. At times it sounds over-produced, but this is a symptom of the increasing desires of the music industry for clarity and quality of sound combined with the ready availability of the resources to create it. Lead singer, Bernard Sumner’s voice is as strong as ever and there is a welcome return of female vocal input from Gillian Gilbert – the overall sound is as strong and cohesive as it has ever been.
Whilst this album is far from perfect, it is home to some of the best noises to come from New Order since the 1980s. ‘Singularity’ is a fantastic song, alongside other standout tracks ‘Nothing but a Fool’ and ‘Stray Dog’. By anybody else this album would get 4 stars, but because of the exceptionally high standards of New Order, I’ll give it a 3.