I've seen a lot of New Order over the years, travelling with my friend Ed (@edfin1) who has a very deep bond with their music.
When they toured in 2006 they were past their best but the shows had a sense of celebration. It felt like the end and soon after they effectively split up.
I liked the 2009 line up (minus Peter Hook) under the new band name of Bad Lieutenant. They made a fairly consistent if unimaginative guitar album, helped by vocal and songwriting being shared with an all new member - Jake Evans.
The live shows were great too. They showcased the new songs with a few New Order, Joy Division and Electronic songs thrown in. These old songs performed by a new band didn't need to be 'as good as New Order', they just had to be decent / different. They succeeded - a version of Temptation they played at London's Heaven was as good as any I heard with Hook.
I’d have liked them to continue with Bad Lieutenant because the New Order which we've had back since 2011 still without Hook and now without Evans hasn't been anywhere near as interesting.
They've been playing largely the same greatest hits set list ever since their first 'comeback' shows in Brussels and Paris, which I went to. It's not just the absence of Hook. They just don't sound as good and with age Sumner’s whoops, whistles, ruining ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by yelling 'COME ON', and his dancing (which I’ve previously described as a drunk granddad playing hopscotch) all grate a bit more with each passing year.
The only way they could continue is with new music. They’ve needed some impetus.
Last night, at midnight they released a new album - ‘Music Complete’. I had a synchronised listen with Ed. My plan was to live tweet a review of each track but decided against it so as not to interrupt his experience. A new New Order album for my friend is a big deal.
I wrote up some notes of my first impressions while listening instead. Ranking art with scores out of ten is a shameful exercise as is instantly judging things that have been worked on for months but I enjoy it anyway albeit with some guilt. So here are my unedited thoughts on first listen from 1am this morning. I’ll probably change my views on every track over time but for now:
A synthed up Bad Lieutenant track. It’s alright. 7
Begins like Joy Division, then quickly goes all Lowlife. Pretty good, this. 8
Not feeling all the love people have got for this. It's just OK. I love Elly Jackson, but all she does here is callbacks that remind me too much of Ana Matronic's contribution to Jetstream off the last album and I never want to be reminded of Jetstream. It’s still got a decent Donna Summer vibe but it's way too long. Take out the first couple of minutes and you’ve got something. Would be 7 but because it goes on just a 6
Proper Technique territory here at the start, then it goes all disco. I like it. 7
People on the High Line
Even more disco. Not a lot here apart from the groove to be honest though. 5
A pulsating beat, like a movie soundtrack narrated by Iggy Pop. It’s not New Order. It’s not much good. It’s atmospheric but there’s no melody. I’m going to get bored by this very quickly on repeat listens. Not sure what it’s doing here. 3
This is more like it. After the previous two tracks even a Sumner by the numbers tune is going to go down well. Might be being harsh. This could be a grower. Tempted to give 6 but a nice guitar bit at the end makes it a 7
Nothing but a Fool
This is like an Electronic tune. I need to listen to this again, but the bit where the crunchy guitar takes over the instrumental melody is surprisingly like David Gedge, and that’s never a bad thing. Suspect this also might be a grower. 7
Unlearn This Hatred
I like the way this builds up (twice) with layers of electronics. It’s a synth banger, no doubt. Can’t go wrong with that. 8
No discernible tune going on here. Like a lot of this record, it’s more about the sound. Bleepy, fast paced electronica for the most part then another fab guitar ending. Very enjoyable despite itself. 8
Not sure this fits the general tone of the album. Although not as egregious as Stray Dog, this just feels like putting your mate on your album for no good reason. Brandon Flowers in 2015 = Scissor Sisters in 2005. Could do without it. 6
The lyrics are shocking from what I could tell on first listen, but we’ve come to expect that.
There are bass melodies throughout. This is a defiant, ‘look what we can do without you, Peter.’ record. Driven by that, and if you ignore a couple of duffers, it’s a glorious listen.
This is pretty much the album you’d want the band who made Technique to be capable of 25 years later. Their best moments have invariably been the electronic ones over their career and Music Complete is full of them.
The most enjoyable New Order record for over 20 years, this. Looking forward to playing it again and seeing them in November.