Another New Order compilation? Really? Such has been the off balance relationship between their status and actual output that it feels as if the best of has become their primary medium, with each one building ever so slightly on 1987’s Substance. Total, however, offers two unique selling points. Not only is it the first album to bring together Joy Division and New Order tracks but it also contains an unreleased NO song. So prevalent has been this material over the years that this is hardly an earth shattering event. It is, however, always worth reminding yourself just how remarkable this story has been. Despite talk of remastering, the Joy Division material still sounds scratchy, claustrophobic and inaccessible. ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ may have become an indie dancefloor classic but it’s a safe bet less people are cutting a rug to ‘Isolation’ on a regular basis.
While ‘Ceremony’ suggested that, post Curtis, things would remain largely the same, they soon established the new regime. ‘Temptation’ added a human warmth and pop overtones to their sound and is worthy of hearing again and again. It also ushered in a period that saw New Order become almost the perfect singles band. It was a touch that never deserted them, with even the frankly poor later albums (the excellent Get Ready excluded) still capable of producing the likes of ‘Regret’ and ‘Krafty’. As for Total‘s one new addition to the story, ‘Hellbent’ is really very good indeed, capturing the band at their vibrant best. If, as seems likely, it is to be the last we will ever hear from New Order it’s not a bad way to sign off. As for Total itself, it’s an album that is essential while being pretty pointless. The final chapter? Until the next time….