Music Complete succeeds in introducing a new audience to New Order.
There’s serious weight to Music Complete, from the full complement of 11 tracks – none of which are skits – to the fact that all but one are well in excess of five minutes in length. It’s not hard to do that in electronic dance music these days, especially when everything leads with four to eight phrases of slowly building bass, snare and high-hat patterns. But, thankfully, that’s not what happens here. Despite the fact that every track is destined for the dancefloor, none of them resort to the old house music chestnuts. That’s not the way things used to be done back in the day when New Order were making melancholy dance pop which saw ravers and alt/goth kids hanging out at the same parties. They’re back now to school modern EDM artists in the craft of making original, danceable, heavy-hitting electro-pop.
The lead track “Restless” is surprisingly one of the weakest on the record, yet it recalls Bernard Sumner’s still relevant side-project Electronic. The synths feel familiar and moody, and the track is actually an appropriate lead off simply because it picks up where things left off on their ninth album. It’s basic, with a simple, somewhat repetitive hook, but it quickly accelerates against the fast double-time disco drumming on “Singularity.” Here, things start to feel a little more energetic. This is where we go from old and familiar to “New Order is back!”
Both “Plastic” and “Tutti Frutti” slow down the proceedings just a little and get back to the easy pop-disco business. Lyrics come off as a little cheesy at times, but that’s normal. With the possible exception of “Blue Monday” and “Bizarre Love Triangle,” they were never really known as incredible lyric writers. In this case, “Tutti Frutti” actually seems to play to the strengths of a great groove, while “People on the High Line” opts for just straight-up pop music that smacks of ’90s era Lisa Stansfield.
“Stray Dog” invites Iggy Pop to voice the rough rasp of a man lamenting the loss of love. The band plays off the spoken word with high energy but minimal looping synth rhythm. While fairly minimalist, the track marches on for over six minutes and manages to never feel prolonged. Iggy Pop’s spoken-word delivery is juxtaposed beautifully with the quick-step synth patterns.
“Nothing But a Fool” and “Unlearn” feel like a throwback to ’80s era Substance and remind us what a fantastic hook sounds like. Like in recent offerings from Chvrches, there’s been a resurgence of melody and meaning in dance music, and it’s a refreshing and welcome change from the oft-delivered R&B. “Superheated” offers a similar kind of beautifully driven and syrupy sweet pop song.
Music Complete succeeds in introducing a new audience to what made New Order so notable back in the ’90s. It’s like they never left.