The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tim McNa­mara

Mu­sic Com­plete New Or­der Mute/Cre­ate Con­trol As far as mu­si­cal his­to­ries go, New Or­der has quite the story to tell, but rusted-on fans will know it hasn’t al­ways been com­fort­able telling it. Since form­ing from the rem­nants of Joy Di­vi­sion fol­low­ing lead singer Ian Curtis’s sui­cide in 1980, the band has ex­pe­ri­enced the full gamut of ca­reer twists and turns, from us­ing al­bum sales to bankroll Manch­ester club and acid house in­cu­ba­tor The Ha­cienda to long hia­tuses, la­bel and le­gal woes and, more re­cently, the de­par­ture of foun­da­tion bassist Peter Hook. Amid the break-ups, make-ups and line-up shake-ups, it’s al­ways been New Or­der’s pro­gres­sive mu­si­cal out­put that has en­sured the band’s rel­e­vance. Ris­ing from the ashes of post-punk, the band’s early pri­ori­ti­sa­tion of drum ma­chines and syn­the­sis­ers pro­duced dance-pop hy­brid mas­ter­pieces Bizarre Love Tri­an­gle and the ubiq­ui­tous Blue Mon­day that, with its pul­sat­ing bassline and dra­matic synths, sounds as fresh to­day as it did in 1983. Mu­sic Com­plete, the group’s 10th stu­dio al­bum and fol­low-up to 2005’s Wait­ing for the Siren’s Call and 2013’s col­lec­tion of leftovers Lost Sirens, seeks to strike a bal­ance be­tween guitar-led and synth-driven sounds, but the synth pre­vails. Found­ing mem­bers Bernard Sum­ner and Stephen Mor­ris, ac­com­pa­nied by Phil Cun­ning­ham, new­comer Tom Chap­man and, for the first time since 2001 al­bum Get Ready, Gil­lian Gil­bert, have fash­ioned an en­er­getic and son­i­cally var­ied al­bum. First sin­gle and al­bum opener Rest­less is far from an al­bum stand­out, but with its grungy gui­tars and an­themic cho­rus cen­tred on greed, it’s cer­tainly a grower. It’s a de­ceiv­ing opener, too, be­cause it’s largely de­void of elec­tronic in­flu­ence, when much of what fol­lows isn’t. Sin­gu­lar­ity, as one of two tracks pro­duced by the Chem­i­cal Broth­ers’ Tom Row­lands, is evoca­tive of the elec­tronic duo’s sound through its fast pace and war­bling synth line, and pairs well with Sum­ner’s brash vo­cal. On Tutti Frutti the se­duc­tive pipes of La Roux’s Elly Jack­son link with Sum­ner in what is a chug­ging, shiny synth-pop num­ber re­plete with killer hook, fin­ished off in a flurry of at­mo­spheric strings and crisp drums. Stray Dog comes out of left field, as Iggy Pop bel­lows throaty, spo­ken-word ram­blings in­clud­ing “the se­cret of all hap­pi­ness is un­con­di­tional love” on top of leath­ery synth and guitar stabs; strange, but mem­o­rable. Su­per­heated closes pro­ceed­ings in cheesy 1980s pop ter­ri­tory, as the Killers’ front­man Bran­don Flow­ers de­liv­ers a pow­er­ful vo­cal on an un­der­whelm­ing beat. Iconic and in­flu­en­tial are two words rou­tinely as­so­ci­ated with New Or­der, and the weight of ex­pec­ta­tion that comes with such ac­claim has led other bands to over­think, over­pro­duce and ul­ti­mately overdo it, es­pe­cially when ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy al­low it. As Sum­ner him­self has said: “It be­comes com­pli­cated when you’ve been do­ing it for this long.” Thank­fully, Mu­sic Com­plete is pro­gres­sive yet evoca­tive of clas­sic New Or­der ma­te­rial, a rhyth­mic, fre­quently dance­able and of­ten catchy of­fer­ing, and another tri­umphant chap­ter in the New Or­der story.

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