Music CompleteMusic • CD
Synth Pop / Electro Pop
01/10/2015, Paul PLEDGER
Answering a recent interviewer's question on whether he missed his erstwhile friend's presence in the band, New Order's lead-singer Bernard Sumner proclaims that there's 'little point in staying together just for the kids'. Well, quite.
Without Hook's supposedly increased negativity casting shadows over the creative process, the iconic New Order remain just that with something of a triumphant renaissance. Iconic and still a good reason for firing up your nearest stereo player.
No-one can deny Peter Hook's enormous contribution to one of Britain's (and certainly Manchester's) most enduring outfits but, truth be told, the last few 'rockier' albums felt like the aftermath of another heated domestic between the two main protagonists. It's a shame. It was a shame. It's not a shame anymore. It's still New Order. There will always be a Peter Hook power-housing his way through Joy Division and New Order's enviable legacy (via his crack band The Light) and whatever happens in court, stays in court. Fans have the best of both worlds. Yes we truly do.
And so it proves with Music Complete. Hand on heart and without fingers crossed, I'll pronounce it as New Order's most (ahem) complete long-player since Low-Life and the equal of Technique. That is going some. It shits on their last three and much as I love some of Republic's more upbeat efforts, stands up as the Mancunian/Salfordian quintet's most floor-friendly material yet.
Opener Restless seems to have already been kicked around the critical playground by all and sundry but after several listens now, I'm convinced that it's still better than everything on Get Ready (with the absolute exception of Crystal, of course) and supersedes most of Siren's Call (bar the title track and Krafty). It's not a great opener for this album, mark you - second single Plastic might well have been a contender to kickstart Music Complete but no matter. It will certainly make a great live curtain-raiser if chosen.
It's one of only two tiny quibbles. The other is the inclusion of The Game which doesn't sit comfortably with the remaining ten belters and suffers from being the prop between two of the album's strongest tracks. Pet Shop Boys collaborator Stuart Price steers Superheated through a hi-energy disco-pop backdrop with Killers' Brandon Flowers trilling sweetly but the preceding Unlearn This Hatred ramps up the beats considerably more. One of two tracks co-written with Chemical Brothers Tom Rowlands, UTH has all the New Order hallmarks you know and love - huge swells of synths, pumping electro-disco beats and a whiff of hedonism about it.
But nothing compares to the album's pivotal quintet of full-frontal anthems. Beginning with Rowlands' other euphoric banger Singularity and ending with Iggy Pop's emotionally-scarred baritone drawl on the dark Stray Dogs, this is classic New Order and no mistake. If you don't nod your neck or shimmy like a teen to Tutti Frutti's hairspray hi-hats or People on the High Line's disco skank, you're officially dead from the toes up. Remember how totally amazing Mr Disco sounded back in 1989 when Technique first hit the turntable? Yep, that and then some more.
The personal Stray Dogs recalls earlier emotionally-charged work such as Ultraviolence, Murder or Sunrise with Mr Osterberg sounding not unlike MC5's John Sinclair. The lyrics come from a Sumner poem, by the way and Pop proves the perfect foil for the somewhat intense dialogue.
Music Complete is by turns joyful, reflective, uplifting, fun and occasionally (mercifully) just a little bit sad. Music Complete is, well, complete but should come with its own mirrorball.
This review also appeared also on Flipside Reviews.
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