Hey! Here’s an idea: let’s skip the intro, we all know the story… so instead of banging on about Joy Division, Blue Monday and acrimonious bust-ups let’s just crack on, eh? Let’s keep is simple: is New Order’s 9th album worth buying?
‘Restless’ is an odd choice for lead single and opening track of Music Complete. A real grower over repeated listens, yet not quite weighty enough for such focus. It’s almost acting as a buffer against hopes getting too high. Jangly guitars give this the feeling of an Electronic song. For a song called ‘Restless’ Barney’s vocals are the most lethargic that they appear on the whole album.
‘Singularity’ is where the band necks the espresso and gets down to business, with menacing bass and nervy, back alley drums. Fireworks of crunching electro burst against a vertical barricade of rhythm. A bruising, pugilistic street-fighting song that’s tough as anything in their back catalogue.
‘Plastic’ sounds freshly arrived from the 80s. With such a pounding from the low end, the song sounds as if it’s playing at a party three doors down. Barney’s vocals being low in the mix and breathy backing vocals add to the atmospheric. Airtight and skintight.
‘Tutti Frutti’ (yes, really) continues with an acid drenched tribute to Technique, with similar vocal samples as ‘Fine Time’. It’s sweat soaked and filthy as fuck. What’s clear is that Barney has clearly not lost the uncanny knack of writing an earworm-ing chorus. Here he’s verbally sparring with La Roux in a frothy back-and-forth that just keeps on giving until we’re left with the gravelly Italian robo-soul utterance of the title. Damn it, could be the best track on the album…
‘People On The High Line’ changes gear with cheeky wah-wah and slap bass (really?) that make things seem a little more like ABC. But instead of Martin Fry in a gold suit, we get classic acid house keys. Peaking on a plateau of pleasure this is a slice of pure New Order joy.
‘Stray Dog’ starts with what I am damned sure is the same howling dog sample from Kavinsky’s ‘Night Call’, popularised by the movie Drive. It has the same dusky sound but instead adopts a lilt close to ‘Morning To Night And Day’. Then the surprise. It’s Iggy Pop on vocals. But singing he ain’t, instead he’s doing a husky spoken word piece on love. It’s rather majestic and spellbinding. Iggy now sounds like a man who’s lived the live of Iggy Pop. In short, New Order have taken on synth-wave and shown them how to do it properly. With Iggy-fucking-Pop.
The second half can’t quite keep up the momentum, with the nagging sensation of being back in the days of Lost Sirens.
‘Academic’ closely replicates the dying summer days of ‘Waiting For The Sirens Call’; blissful bass and a languid melody that bursts into splendour. The promise of adventure lurks.
‘Nothing But A Fool’ is pleasant and offers the image of what Republic may have sounded like, if it wasn’t shite. The problem is the song is far too anaemic to justify an 8 minute running time.
The bustling, blaring ‘Unlearn This Hatred’ heats up the tempo again.
‘The Game’, with its lack of concentration scurries from one instrument to another then plays about with glitchy vocal effects.
‘Superheated’ teases with ‘Atmosphere’ drums before the reality kicks in. There is a glorious panoramic quality to this song, assisted by the vocals of The Killers’ Brandon Flowers. New Order are trotting off into the sunset but this time, the final doesn’t look as final as previous years… ‘Now that it’s over…’ Brandon sings… Not this time…
Music Complete is simply relentless from ‘Plastic’ through to ‘Stray Dog’. Five bucket of ice-cold water to the face. It’s honed, fighting fit and lethal. The second half is relaxed but enjoyable, a band unencumbered by their heritage.
A band past its best and going through the motions? No fear…