Album Review: New Order – Music Complete

By on Thursday, 1st October 2015 at 1:00 pm
 

Words by Nick Roseblade

New Order Music Complete coverWhenever you hear that a classic band is reforming without certain members, you immediately fear the worst. When the Manic Street Preachers decided to carry on without the missing Richey Edwards, it worked at first, but as the albums got progressively worse, you questioned their reasoning. Why not just rebrand yourself ‘MSP’? We all know what it stands for, you can still play the old songs, but then a line has been drawn in the sand, we know you aren’t the same band.

After the death of Ian Curtis, the remaining members of Joy Division went away, then came back as a new group, christened New Order. During their best years, New Order redefined the pop landscape and released a slew of classic singles until they called it a day in 2007. Now they have returned with a new album, ‘Music Complete’, but like the Manic Street Preachers before them, they’re missing a key member. Luckily original bassist Peter Hook hasn’t done a Richey Edwards, but sadly after falling out with frontman Bernard Sumner, he’s no longer with the group.

Lead single ‘Restless’ kicks the album off: classic New Order synths and keyboards fill your speakers, and it appears to be business as usual. That is until Sumner starts singing, “I want a nice car, a girlfriend / who’s as pretty as a star / I want respect / as much, as much as I can get”. It’s hardly ‘Temptation’ or ‘True Faith’, is it? But you put it down to first song jitters and with an open mind you continue to the next track ‘Singularity’. Sadly, it’s more of the same. Uninspiring music and sixth form lyrics, “and all I wanna do / is make the right impression / the instrument of truth / a soldier with no weapon”.

The album continues in this vein. With each new track, you hope it’ll get better, but deep down you know it never will. The next three tracks – ‘Plastic’, ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘People on the High Line’ – feature Elly ‘La Roux’ Jackson. ‘Plastic’ sounds like a reworking of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’, but where you’d expect Jackson to come in, Sumner does and she is relegated to mundane backing vocals. ‘Tutti Frutti’ sounds like a Yello album track in the 1990s, complete with faux-computerised vocals. ‘People on the High Line’ proves to be the most fun track of the first half of the album: ‘90s Italian keyboards mix with a jaunty beat that sounds like music would have been played on a high-street fashion show in a local shopping centre in the decade.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYF718oOoco[/youtube]

‘Stray Dog’ features Iggy Pop on vocal duties; this is an atmospheric slow burning narrative piece. It’s reminiscent of the 1999 track ‘Pop’ recorded with Death in Vegas, but this New Order tune never quite reaches the levels of darkness or brooding that ‘Aisha’ does. The next selection of songs follow on from the pattern that ‘Restless’ started and blur into banality. ‘Superheated’ closes the album with an uplifting number, but like ‘Music Complete’, it feels empty and half-hearted.

There are three main problems with ‘Music Complete’. Firstly, it isn’t 1998 anymore. Due to Sumner’s song writing style, it all sounds very dated, musically speaking, and it’s hard to work out if these are in fact new songs or just old demos that Hook didn’t like and now he’s not around, Sumner has complete control to do what he wants with them. Retro-sounding synths and drum beats? They pepper the album. I like nostalgia as much as the next person, but I also like bands to progress, especially after such a long break. Secondly, the lyrics aren’t that great. While it can be said that Sumner and Hook were never classic lyricists, on ‘Music Complete’ it seems like the words have been treated as an afterthought.

And thirdly, Peter Hook’s driving and diversive bass-playing is missing. While Tom Chapman does a pretty good impression of Hooky, you know immediately it’s not the real thing. In the past, Hook’s bass would stalk you through the album, before he delivered that killer blow by note, but now the spirit of his bass playing is only there in spirit. I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this album, and old and new fans appear to like it. It sounds like their ‘90s dance stuff. If that floats your boat, get involved. Personally, I’d rather sail away.

New Order should rebrand themselves ‘NO’, that way we’d all know where we stand.

6/10

‘Music Complete’, the first new album from Manchester electronic legends New Order in 10 years, is out now on Mute Ltd. They’ll be on tour in the UK in November.

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