Saturday, April 22, 2017

Music Complete (2015)

Caveats mea culpa: It's possible I have lost all ability to judge New Order releases after 1989's Technique. It and everything before, including especially the anthology Substance, are more or less fine. Everything after goes on a case-by-case basis, but my problem is I'm not sure I can discern any logic on my part beyond whim or mood. Republic was a disappointment, with only one or two good songs, but Get Ready was a happy and durable surprise, though not enough to keep me on the breadcrumb trail. I don't really know the intervening sirens albums—Waiting for the Sirens' Call from 2005 and Lost Sirens from 2013. Meanwhile, I also have a lot of regard for some of the solo forays, notably Electronic and the Other Two. Somehow Music Complete won me over right away. I've played it a lot and not just because of Iggy Pop's typically moving plaint on one song, "Stray Dog." I'm not sure an Iggy appearance has ever hurt a 21st-century album, except for his own. Is it the music I like on Music Complete, or is it the idea of liking the music, the idea that the band is still up to it at all? Dare I say, it's because the songs are better than usual? Does it even matter? Questions, questions. And then I'm just as sure I'm only overthinking when the Music Complete starts to play. The warmth that New Order uncovered in themselves ages ago as always serves to temper the chilled rhythms and grooves. There's a buoyant mood and energy to this set. It's a natural. Every play turns up a little more, the songs move this way and that as you get to know them, and you remember the melodies later, they haunt your brain—all the usual recognizable effects of good pop music. Take "Tutti Frutti" as a case study. Little Richard has nothing to do with it, but it does feature Elly Jackson of La Roux. The melody is sweet and poignant on the verses, with a soaring chorus. Yet I know it's familiar too—I suspect if I wanted to dig for it, I might find something quite a bit like it on an earlier song. Maybe you know it? In that way, then, it may objectively be characterized as derivative and fading. But I have never heard it that way—"Tutti Frutti," for one, is a tender, beautiful song as it stands. So is "Nothing But a Fool." The knack for a groove is not lost either, as heard especially on "People on the High Line," "The Game," and "Superheated."  Iggy and Jackson are not the only guests here—"Singularity" and "Unlearn This Hatred" are collaborations with Chemical Brother Tom Rowlands, and Brandon Flowers of the Killers appears on "Superheated." There are extended versions and remixes of all these songs too, no surprise, but so far I think the originals remain the best. I'd say Music Complete is a good one.

1 comment:

  1. Power, Corruption, & Lies is my favorite NO album. (I think that makes me a Joy Division conservative or something?) Still, I liked a lot the classic phase too, Low-Life through Technique or so. But anything I've heard after that, admittedly very little, sounded like they'd lost their working band songcraft mojo. Still, if XX can make a decent record in 2017, why the hell not synthpop forefathers New Order?!