Album Review: New Order - Music Complete

4/5

Soap-opera moments have been plentiful from a band that started in Manchester nearly 40 years ago as Warsaw, and would later be reincarnated as Joy Division and then New Order.

The suicide of original lead singer, Ian Curtis, imbued the group with a ghoulish mystique, while an ongoing feud with founding member, Peter Hook, reads like something from the A-Z of rock cliche.

Amid the melodrama, the music has sometimes taken second place — not necessarily a negative, given the patchy quality of everything they’ve put out from 1993’s Republic onwards (that LP is noteworthy for one decent song, ‘Regret’, and endless filler).

But with Hooky still in absentia and keyboardist, Gillian Gilbert, rejoining, New Order have finally returned with a record worthy of the streak of classic long players they issued through the 1980s, culminating with 1989 dance-pop odyssey, Technique (inspired by a lost summer in Ibiza).

Indeed, Music Complete feels, in places, like a faded facsimile of that album — which is no bad thing, given the swagger with which it blended New Order’s often oppositional guitar-pop and dance-floor inclinations.

Certainly, anyone put off by wan lead single, ‘Restless’, can relax — it’s the wimpiest moment here and atypical of what is to follow.

Far more representative is the glimmering ‘Plastic’: one of the best things New Order have recorded in the past 25 years. With its Giorgio Moroder beat and free-floating, Bernard Sumner vocals, it comes off like an undiscovered track from the band’s pomp (there is even a passable, Hooky-style bass breakdown).

Thereafter, the quality control is mostly maintained — ‘Academic’ twinkles and chimes, ‘Singularity’ is a reworking of classic single-that-never-was, ‘Vanishing Point’.

The only true flub is ‘Superheated’, with an unwelcome cameo from pop replicant, Brandon Flowers, of The Killers.

It’s a testament to the record’s quality that, five minutes in, this lifelong New Order fan had completely forgotten the absence of the iconic Hooky.


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