With a music catalogue dating back to the early eighties and a further history with Joy Division dating back to 1976, it’s amazing to consider just how long New Order have been on the music scene and the amount of music they have managed to produce throughout the years.
Couple this with their faith in upholding a truly unique sound that has stood the test of the past 35 odd years and you have a really exceptional band. Music Complete, their tenth studio album, has reached second place on the UK album charts. While at a glance it seems surprising that a band who have been around as long as New Order are able to permeate this high into the 2015 UK music charts, it really isn’t that surprising at all when you hear the album.
There is always the fear with bands and artists that have been around for as long as New Order that any of their new releases somehow won’t measure up to the musical tastes of the modern audience – the idea that they reached their peak in the ’80s and that their sound will somehow seem aged because of this is very much a potentiality.
Yet, New Order have managed to achieve a delightful measure of experimentation with modern dance/electro music coupled with a loyalty to that unique, inherently New Order sound. If you compare say, New Order’s very first single ‘Ceremony’ with ‘Academic’ from Music Complete, the latter has a more modern feel to it, yet that ability to create a helplessly appealing but simplistic guitar riff lies at the bottom of both tracks. Weaved throughout Music Complete is loyalty to a sound that can only be accurately described as absolutely New Order.
Album opener ‘Restless’ is an appealing combination of steady guitar and some glorious but tasteful synthy goodness. Bernard Sumner’s Frankie Goes to Hollywood-esque vocals are as prominent as they ever were and with a nice guitar solo thrown in too, it gets the album off to an intriguing start.
The Chemical Brothers’ Tom Rowland produced the track ‘Singularity’ which begins with an odd, distorted but nonetheless interesting sound that you’d be forgiven for mistaking for Metronomy. Fast paced electro accompanied with the chorus “One day at a time, inch by inch. For every kiss on lovers’ lips. For lost souls who can’t come home. Friends, not here, we share our tears,” these lyrics are deeper and more complicated than we have come to expect from New Order.
The Hot Chip-esque track ‘Tutti Frutti’ wouldn’t feel out of place in a nightclub and is a particular highlight of Music Complete. For the chorus, Sumner’s vocals are accompanied by La Roux’s Elly Jackson and it enhances this upbeat track. The band also take a leaf out of Clean Bandit’s book – combining violin with electro tracks adding another interesting layer to the song.
Music Complete alternates from upbeat tracks such as ‘Tutti Frutti’, ‘People on the High Line’ and ‘Plastic’ to more emotionally fuelled and intense tracks like ‘Stray Dog’, which features Iggy Pop’s reading of a particularly bleak poem by Sumner alongside some instrumentals that sound, at subtle moments, distinctively Joy Division.
Final track ‘Superheated’ brings the album to a triumphant close. Fast paced and featuring vocals by Brandon Flowers, it is upbeat but with an emotional undercurrent courtesy of a violin and harp infused opening. With simplistic lyrics that lament a relationship gone wrong it ends with the repeated lyrics of “It’s over…” for an overall appropriate ending to the album.
Music Complete is an ambitious album that will appeal to both long time New Order fans and indeed any one unfamiliar with their music. This is achieved through an adventurous fusion of a modern, electro/dance sound with their unmistakable unique style remaining instated throughout.