Album Review: New Order - Music Complete

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New Order ranks up there with AC/DC as one of popular music's finest second acts. After the suicide of charismatic singer Ian Curtis, the English post-punk band Joy Division had no choice but to carry on without him.

Instead of doing what AC/DC did, hiring a soundalike singer to achieve instant success, Joy Division soldiered on with the remaining members, shifting vocal duties to guitarist Bernard Sumner and rechristening themselves as New Order.

Not only did the name change, the sound changed as well. Where Joy Division was a punk band that experimented with dark, industrial electronics, New Order was an electronic dance band that the punks and goths could get behind.

Beginning with 1983's smash hit "Blue Monday" New Order's success had eclipsed that of Joy Division.

"Blue Monday" was just as frighteningly game-changing as Joy Division was on their first record, but this time, it was something the whole party could dance to.

Achieving hit single after hit single, New Order created the soundtrack to the hedonistic, club-going era based around taste making clubs like The Hacienda in Manchester.

Upon the arrival of the 90's, New Order slowly began adding more and more guitar to their sound-stew, somewhat mirroring the then-fashionable grunge and Brit-pop sounds.

With Music Complete, New Order's first album in ten years and first album without founding member Peter Hook's signature baselines, the band finds themselves regrouping in a sense.

Upon Hook's acrimonious departure, the band seems freed of their longtime infatuation with guitar rock, and the extended song lengths and club-ready, psychedelic beats make this their most dance-worthy album since 1989's Technique.

Chemical Brother Tom Rowlands lends his big-beat touch to a few of the songs, creating a vibrant sound not unlike Bernard Sumners' 1999 collaboration with the Chemical Brothers "Out Of Control." His influence is felt throughout the entire album.

Where the Chemical's new album Born In The Echoes was solid, nothing on there matches the manic, hyper-colorful productions on Music Complete.

The beats never stay still for more than a few seconds and there is always something new bubbling up to the surface.

Opener "Restless" finds Sumner and company (drummer Stephen Morris being the only remaining Joy Division survivor) in a dark, brooding alt-rock mood, however Morris' persistent time-keeping keeps the energy up. "Singularity" evokes mourning a loss to a super-funked up bass sample.

"Tutti Frutti" somehow mashes spoken Italian word with breakbeats, and a blissful gang-sung chorus.

Bernard Sumner's voice is the thing that carries all these disparate influences into a cohesive whole. His thin, brittle tenor has aged incredibly well, throwing all kinds of nuances and soulfulness into his delivery.

Highlight (literally) "People On The High Line" throws a muted guitar riff on top of arena-ready beats and a ridiculously catchy melody. At this point, it's easy to recognize that Music Complete is a party album.

When Iggy Pop joins the party for "Stray Dog" his presence is welcome but not necessarily needed. One way to tell an album is very strong? When the iconic Iggy Pop's guest appearance seems superfluous!

Did Bernard Sumner see the EDM-crazed music industry of 2015 and realize it would be a perfect time to bring back the ecstasy fueled big-beat of yesteryear? It certainly seems possible and it would be perfectly timed. You don't survive in the music industry for 40 years without having some business savvy.

Just as with the original Ibiza big-beat heyday of 1989 and the electronica trend of 1998, 2015 is another perfect storm for electronic music.

Music Complete would fit right in with the Skrillexes, the Diplos and the Disclosures, except for one thing...

Is EDM a young person's game? Could the fact that Bernard Sumner is turning 60 next year be a problem to the main demographic of EDM listeners?

Turns out that Aaliyah was right: Age ain't nothing but a thing. Music Complete beats the younger generation at their own game with staggeringly pleasing results. Sharp-as-a-tack songwriting bumps shoulders with air-tight, state of the art productions and lovely guest appearances.

This is a triumphant return from one of the most groundbreaking bands of the past 30 years. Easily one of 2015's finest efforts.

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