It’s easy to be cynical about New Order. The band that started out as Joy Division have enjoyed precious little success since the mid-1990s, and have experienced a tumultuous period that has seen stoic bassist and founding member Peter Hook depart back in 2007.
However, the band has this month returned with Music Complete, which looks suspiciously like a return to form. The collection of tracks are awe-strikingly modern for a band that have been around for nearly forty years. The use of heavy synths and electronic percussion calls upon the sound of Depeche Mode’s ‘Enjoy the Silence’, affording tracks such as the standout Restless a gloomy yet current feel. It certainly seems as though the band have benefitted from a 10 year period without recording any proper studio albums.
This is not to say that the album in its entirety has this same feeling to it; additions of almost Chic-esque funk guitar to a number of tunes makes this album of the ilk that could genuinely get New Order being played in (admittedly more indie) nightclubs again. Do you remember ‘Blue Monday’? You could actually dance to it. And now New Order have produced a set of songs that could make for floor-fillers yet again.
Naturally though, the album is not without its imperfections. Lyrically, it can at times be somewhat lacking in quality; lead singer Bernard Sumner longing for “a car and a girlfriend who looks just like a star” is a particularly cringeworthy nadir. Furthermore, on their first release without Hook, the absence of his moody bass lines would always be under the microscope, and it might be argued that the debutant replacement Tom Chapman doesn’t quite fill the boots of his indomitable predecessor.
And yet, at its heart, Music Complete is not at all about New Order conforming to their previous blueprint. It rings in the changes of a long-standing band transforming to refresh themselves for the better. This is in no small part helped by guest appearances from Iggy Pop on ‘Stray Dog’, and from La Roux on tracks ‘Plastic’, ‘Tutti-Frutti’, and the fantastically funky People on the ‘High Line’. The best cameo however undoubtedly comes from The Killers’ Brandon Flowers on final track ‘Superheated’, penned jointly between himself and New Order, a song that displays a wonderful amalgamation of The Killers’ anthemic indie rock and New Order’s synth-based pop. It provides a fittingly-fresh ending to an album that suggests the Salford veterans can continue to evolve and will remain prominent in indie music for a few years yet.