18 November 2015
New Order - Music Complete
New Order have always been a bit of a polarising band in my life, for ying there is an equal and opposite yang; for "Temptation" there is "Krafty", for "Regret" there is "World In Motion" (not keen on football songs, once John Barnes starts on it the song is dead to me), for every "True Faith" there is "Slow Jam". There has never been a consistency to the band for me, there has always been moments of greatness and I do consider myself of their music but there is also a lot of music that does not make get my motor running. Whilst this is the first New Order album we have reviewed, I do not think I really have to do a history, do I? You can find out how they were formed out of tragedy in various sources, but here is a link to the Wikipedia article here (cleverly linked) and you can see all the fighting, tension, the pioneering music (when they get it right, they really are spot on) and everything that has gone on over the years. I will do a brief background to this album though - this is their first full studio release since 2005 'Waiting for the Siren's Call' (2013 'Lost Sirens' was an odd's & sod's collection from the recording session for 'Waiting for the Siren's Call'. This album is the first to not feature bass player Peter Hook and it is the first to feature new bass player Tom Chapman and the return of keyboard player Gillian Gilbert. The art work is by long time contributor Peter Saville and it is one of the most striking covers for me this year, it is very cubist and that is a section of art I am very interested in. But an album cover does not always make a good record, sometimes it needs a little bit more.....
Starting the album is the first single to be harvested from this album called "Restless" and I am confronted by a tale of someone who is unsatisfied with their life and needs a change, musically is sound synth heavy, some guitars and the bass further in the background. Now the song itself is not a bad song after the 12-t listen, it is well played as you expect from this band. But there is no tension here, it is very safe and a little predictable if I am honest. They were never the most rebellious sounding band in the first place, but for a band who part of the Madchester scene, Factory records and made some of the darkest moments in modern pop history, this is a very reserved and safe start to an album. "Singularity" is an improvement to be honest, it is a darker song which has a really good beat and bassline running through it. It is certainly an improvement on "Restless" as it feels like it has some resemblance of passion running through it and that is what I like to hear in a New Order song - not going through motions (that was not a pun), but having some sort of emotional attachment to the song. This is a highlight off the album and one that should have been released as the lead single if truth be told, it actually reminds me of their earlier days. "Plastic" which is the first of three songs to feature Elly Jackson of La Roux on backing vocals starts off with such promise, the introduction is a brilliant piece of electronic indie that for a few brief moments makes my hopes rise and then it descends into a dull dance beat which they used to master. There is an attempt at a bassline of old, but the music reminds me of a poor version of "I Feel Love" by Donna Summers. Some classic sounds are meant to be left alone, this is a song which might be good live but it fails on the album for me.
The fourth song is "Tutti Frutti" which has recently been released as a single and has had various remixes created by the likes of Hot Chip. Once again featuring backing vocals by Elly Jackson, it is a throwback to their rave days and it is also a song that is crying out for a remix to be honest. It sounds as if it needs a second pair of eyes on it and that it is requiring extra hands to change something about it. It feels as if there is no fighting spirit going on within the song and it could have been a b-side to an Electronic single. Nothing wrong with that sound, but it was always distinctly different to New Order in sound and that is something that I will get back to at the end of the review. It is also (like almost every song on this album) a bit too long and could have been trimmed to give it more impact. "People on the High Line" (the last of the tracks to feature Elly Jackson) is much the same, it has an interesting guitar riff and then it is lost in a song which could actually be "Tutti Frutti Part Deux" as it pretty much merges into one. There is nothing specifically wrong on this song per se, but for a band who took their personal style to the limits at times this is background music at best. "Stray Dog" is another song with a special guest, this time it is Iggy Pop and he is giving a spoken word performance over this electronic marsh which sometimes sounds interest, but sometimes it loses focus and drifts into a bland space. Iggy is doing his best Tom Waits here and he keeps the interest going on this song, you could remove a few minutes of the music here and it would have been the best song on the album; but there is a lack of edit button on this song (and album) and it takes something away from this song - I wonder what an a Capella version of this would sound like?
"Academic" is back in "Restless" territory but with a little more flair, it has a darkness which makes it better than the opening track. It also has a bite to the chorus which really has been missing from this album for a massive section of the record. Do not get me wrong, it is still not a classic number by any stretch of the imagination (that is for time to decide), but it is another song that at least songs as if the band care about this number. Once again it is far too long and needs some of the excess removed and it would have been spot on, but it does not and you get more than what would want. "Nothing But a Fool" is almost eight minutes in length and it starts off with an arrangement which can only be described as Led Zeppelin-esque (sort of like the song "Nobody's Fault but Mine" done acoustically), but they turn it around and in the middle of this song you have a great chorus hook, but it is padded too much once again and it is part of the album that frustrates me the most. It could have been a great song of regret and sorrow as there is some great lyrics and a decent song to be mined out of it. But that is not the case here, it is bloated and too long. "Unlearn This Hatred" is practically a punk song for this album as it is the shortest number at four minutes, nineteen seconds long, in terms of this album it speeds past but it is also a little dull. I like the music, the vocals are ok, but it feels a little limp and tired in places and as if there is no fire in the tank. The penultimate track is called "The Game" and it is a blur in this album. I feel at a loss with it and it has all the good and bad parts of this album merged into one song. The good parts - the music itself is decent, the chorus is once again the best part of the song. The bad parts - it lacks spirit and it is unnecessary long with no real focus. It perfectly sums up this album and I neither like nor dislike it - I am mostly sad that it exists in this format. Ending the album is "Superheated" which features Brandon Flowers of The Killers who is living out his childhood dream I imagine on this song, singing on a song with a band that have clearly influenced his musical career. But it sounds as if the influence has worked both ways here, as this song reminds me of the Killers song "Spaceman". It is a decent enough song which is pleasant on the ears, sort of rounding off this album in a fitting way.
As you can probably guess from the tone of my review, I am not a fan of this album. It is an album that carries far too much weight on it, each song could stand to love a few minutes each which would have made this album under 50 minutes and this would have been to the benefit of everyone. Whilst I am not missing the low-slung bass of Peter Hook, I am missing something that he brought to the party - tension. New Order thrived on the band always sounding as if they were playing on the edge, as if every note had been a fight and it galvanised everything about it. Without the tension, it is missing something that made New Order special in the first place and you can feel it throughout the album. Now this album has been receiving high praise everywhere and I can only guess it is because it has a safe feeling, it might not piss on the legacy of New Order but it is pretty damn close to doing that. If ever an album needed a remix, this is it.
5 out of ten - It could have been a bit better
Top song - Singularity
You can purchase Music Complete from Amazon here
You can visit the New Order website here
You can follow the activities on New Order on Facebook here
You can stream Music Complete on Deezer here
You can stream Music Complete on Spotify here
You can stream Music Complete on Tidal here
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