Album Review: Music Complete by New Order

For fans of New Order, this is a monumental record.

For one, Music Complete is the legendary Manchester band’s tenth studio album. In addition, those in the know have suggested that this represents the spiritual follow-up to the band’s most critically-acclaimed album, Technique. A chance to turn back time on the band’s more mundane work and return to the glory days of the Hacienda.

There is of course one small detail that gets in the way of this idea – the majority of twenty-something-music-types, the ones that constitute so much of the music-buying population, weren’t even born when Technique was released. How is a revival album supposed to compare for people who don’t know what it’s reviving? Even without the pressure of following an album 26 years on, the parameters that define an album have changed massively in that time. Without simply abandoning the band’s ethos entirely, could a New Order album work in 2015?

Let’s listen and find out.

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One thing that comes to mind as the drums kick into gear on opener ‘Restless’ is that, for a legendary electronic band, New Order are highly acoustic. That’s not to say their electronic elements are particularly bad, the synthetic sounding glockenspiel on the intro actually has a very nice Gold Panda vibe to it, but to modern ears this would more likely be described as an indie band with some keyboards – which most indie bands have anyway nowadays.

On ‘Singularity’ the band really comes into its own. The high-tempo disco beat and post-punk guitars are just unmistakably New Order. Many bands have incorporated this sound into their pwn since the band’s heyday, but it’s never been properly re-owned – and on ‘Singularity’, own it is exactly what New Order do. The hands-in-the-air synth thudding carries on through ‘Plastic’ in such a way you can’t help but dream of the band’s upcoming Warehouse Project set.

The amount of ambition shown on these two tracks is striking. Where most electronic acts nowadays tend to fit their tracks into an agreeable pop-song template, New Order are unashamedly brash – including Doctor Who-esc screaming synths, taking a six minute journey on each track, and generally being as gloriously un-radio-friendly as possible.

From that point on however, the album dissipates.

‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘People on the High Line’ just feel like nostalgic dance throwbacks whilst beyond that, without the tempo and drive of the earlier tracks, the band are reduced to the earlier description of an ‘indie band with keyboards’. ‘Nothing but a Fool’ in particular is reminiscent of fellow Mancunian band Doves, who’s only real relevant moment of the last decade was to be featured on the OC – which itself has now become old news.

‘Unlearn this Hatred’ is a slight return to the warehouse-based fun, but overall the album just feels tired.

In answer to the earlier question, maybe a New Order album could work in 2015 – after all, whilst there isn’t a Hacienda there is now the Warehouse Project. Despite some admittedly high peaks however, this album just doesn’t have the energy or inventiveness to captivate like New Order have done so before.

Are you a fan of New Order? Have you been listening to Music Complete? Let us know in the comments below!