Pasa Tempos Music by New Order; and Ralph Vaughan Williams and James MacMillan
Records) It’s now been 35 years since New Order shed its Joy Division roots, helping usher in the 1980s and the entire genre of dance rock — and the band sounds as youthful and spry as ever. Part of that may come down to the departure of bassist Peter Hook, who helped provide so much of the group’s signature sound but whose grumpiness became a drag on the band’s overall mind-set. It’s true that a lot of the bass lines on Music Complete don’t sound like vintage New Order, but if the results are as joyful as this, then it’s a fair trade. Maybe New Order even got a bit overenthusiastic; this album, its first in a decade, runs a bit long. The highs, however, reach orbit. This is nothing new — New Order has always been a singles band rather than an album band — but what may be surprising is how fresh it all sounds. The rhythms distill decades of club culture into infectious jams that often stretch past the five-minute mark. Songs such as “People on the High Line” and “Singularity” boast hooks that relentlessly weaken all resistance, despite some goofy lyrics. Some of the sounds feel dated, but they’re just tools to the band. Dance rock enjoyed a nice revival in the 2000s, but New Order remains among the very best, in large part because it has understood the expressive power of dance music better than just about everyone.