Hotly anticipated is no doubt the biggest euphemism of the year when it comes to New Order‘s latest opus, Music Complete. It’s been 10 years since the band released anything new (Waiting For The Siren’s Call in 2005, and outtakes from those sessions released as Lost Sirens in 2013), partly due to the on-going feud between Peter Hook and his ex-band mates.

Two singles were released prior to the album’s official launch in late September, to relatively positive reviews, but not entirely convincing that the album itself would be thrilling. Restless was, at best, bland and far from ground-breaking, while Plastic had some people thinking Giorgio Moroder would sue Bernard Sumner et al. for lifting the arpeggio from I Feel Love. Again, a good track, but still nothing that was very revelatory of what was to come.

And what came was a stunning album indeed.

I’ve always stressed how important I believe an album’s pacing can be — the order or sequence of the tracks from beginning to end — and Music Complete is a textbook case of this.

Where Restless and Plastic were OK songs on their own, within the context of the whole album — and even though one might think the opening track (Restless) is less influenced by the pacing —, they take on a totally different dimension, so much that it feels like a sleight of hand performed by an incredibly talented prestidigitator.

And the magic of Music Complete does not solely reside in its pacing; the compositions — and especially their production — are quite simply stellar.

new order 2015

Let’s get something straight: I voluntarily did not write “songwriting” because no one ever said Sumner’s lyrics and topics are deeply philosophical. They are, were, and always will be pop ditties. New Order’s strength has always been their ability to craft danceable pop songs whose melodies and hooks have nothing to envy to the best of them — and if you’re like me, you’re addicted to Sumner’s voice.

Speaking of production, it’s worth noting that most of the album was self-produced — the band has always played a major production role in its output —, with the notable help of The Chemical Brothers‘ Tom Rowlands on Singularity and Unlearn This Hatred. On Singularity, whose intro could be from an outtake from 1986’s Brotherhood, Rowlands’ touch resembles more his own band’s latter output (think We Are The Night), but there really is some true magic happening here as it is one of New Order’s best song in a long while, and also the Chem’s best song in a while…

Also credited with additional production is Stuart Price (aka Jacques Lu Cont, Les Rhythmes Digitales, famous for his many production duties for Madonna) on the album’s closer, Superheated (featuring Brandon Flowers on vocals). Here again, if you listen to the song out of context, it’s good, but not mind-blowing; but as the album closer, it’s a bases-loaded homerun.

One of my favourites on Music Complete doesn’t even feature Sumner on vocals, but one of the most surprising guests on a New Order album: James Newell Osterberg, Jr. — to his parents; to you, he’s Iggy Pop. Stray Dog is the title of this spoken-word number that is, musically, some of the best material composed by New Order, with pads (those sustained chords on the Rhodes) that are almost reminiscent of Riders On The Storm, while Iggy muses on about unconditional love in a near-growl that’ll get you either aroused or scared for your life. And then those guitars, strings, House piano riff… What the… Wow!

But my definite favouritest on the album has to be (maybe it’s the DJ in me) Tutti Frutti, a total dance floor thermonuclear device with the friggin catchiest bass line since Blue Monday — I kid you not! ‘Nuff said. You believe me or you don’t, but don’t knock it until you try it…

 

Then, there’s People On The High Line, straight outta Technique, Academic and Nothing But A Fool, both straight outta Get Ready, and The Game, straight outta Waiting For The Siren’s Call

Dare I say this is the most well-rounded, accomplished album? Purists will say it’s not New Order without Hooky, but I’ve seen Hooky and The Light on stage, and I’m sorry to say New Order without Peter Hook is much more New Order than Peter Hook without New Order; in other words anyone can play bass like he does, but nobody composes and sings like Sumner.

There, I’ve officially chosen my camp. Case closed. But…

NOW…

Why did I title this review “Going The Distance”?

Well, you see, as soon as the album was announced, one of the formats available was an 8-vinyl boxed-set containing the whole album in a gatefold double format plus 6 coloured vinyl containing extended versions of all of the album’s tracks. I was in!

Bonus: 200 copies of the boxed set would be signed by all the band members and shipped at random. A New Order Lottery!

I had totally planned on not opening my copy should I get a signed one (which was not the case, thankfully!).

new order vinyls

This being said, I was drawn to the very idea of having a boxed-set of this album and the concept of an extended version of the album was titillating but, just as the singles weren’t entirely promising of what was to come, the idea of extended versions of it was even more of a gamble.

The very concept of Extended Versions is possibly foreign to a certain younger portion of the audience, but back in the 80s, it was common-ground, and often badly executed, often by repeating a chorus, verse, or bridge, sometimes by adding an instrumental part, but generally, as I said, quite badly executed, so long as there was a version longer than 3:30 for dance floors (giving birth to the notion of actual remixes, where the best DJs created their own version using these extended ones and the originals).

Here, each of the 11 songs on the album gets extended by at least 2 or 3 minutes or more, and there’s never a dull moment. Even better: when you listen to the extended version of the album, it seems SHORTER than when you listen to the “regular” version, and what I mean by that is that by the time the extended version of Superheated ends, you’re first reaction will be “It’s already over?!”

I kid you not, and I have a few friends who will vouch for this, Music Complete is an even better album when you listen to the extended versions!

Seriously; I swear I’m not getting any kickback for telling you this…

new order LA 2014

Live in LA, 2014

And I’m also conscious it’ll probably prompt a lot of people to download it illegally instead of buying the boxed-set, but, ultimately, that is not my problem…

Truth be told, the marketing people probably weren’t aware of the fact that only New Order could come up with an extended version of their own album that is even better than the one released to the general public…

Or they will release it net year as a double album so as to make you pay twice for the same album…

But it would totally be worth it.

NEW ORDER
Music Complete
(Mute, 2015)

-Genre: electro pop rock

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Monsieur Seb
Blogueur - RREVERB
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Baptisé par Pink Floyd, ses parrains sont Bach et les Stones. DJ depuis 1984, batteur autodidacte, producteur de musique électronique depuis 2000, Monsieur Seb a été chef de la section culturelle chez Canoë pendant près de 10 années. Il collabore également sur Archipel Magazine, le blogue — et bientôt magazine imprimé — du label électronique montréalais Archipel.