If anybody had tried to tell me in January that New Order would release an album I would place highly in my 2015 list, I would have laughed in their face. ‘Waiting For The Sirens Call’ was the sort of record you bought out of a sense of duty rather than enjoyment. ‘Get Ready’ had its moments but it was almost impossible to view the band as anything other than a spent creative force. When the news they’d signed to Mute emerged, it was intriguing but hardly a guarantee of brilliant music. Then came the dreadful early press photos and a rather familiar sense of doom descended. Even during early listens to first single ‘Restless’, I found myself balking at the lyric “I want a nice car, a girlfriend who’s as pretty as a star.” But then something clicked. The album came in the car with me for a few days and I found that a fair few of the songs were sticking as earworms from the off. When the time came to give the clear vinyl a whirl, I had the speakers turned up and something bordering on a sense of optimism. It did not disappoint.
Having been so ready to be underwhelmed, the genuine pleasure I experienced listening to ‘Singularity’, ‘Plastic’, ‘Tutti Fruiti’ and ‘People On The High Line’ one after another was a shock. These are great, great songs. There’s no desire to be exclusive or on trend. These are songs meant to make you want to move. I’ve spent a minute or two staring at that last sentence, mulling over just how old it makes me sound but I think it captures the open, inviting energy at the heart of ‘Music Complete’.
‘Plastic’ has more than a nod to Donna Summer in its whirling rhythm while, in this company, ‘Restless’ suddenly sounds like vintage mid-period New Order. Elly Jackson from La Roux offers vocals on several tracks, ‘People On The High Line’ is an out and out mature pop banger with wonderful wide-panned percussion, but she also plays a part in a song I am almost inexplicably obsessed with.
‘Tutti Frutti’ should be a slightly embarrassing disco re-tread, bedecked with naive synths and a ludicrous deep-voiced delivery of the titular phrase at various points. But, despite my near constant, sometimes tiring, ironic filter on the world, it gets to me. It prompts idiotic grins and a warm, fuzzy euphoria from me with every play. The chorus is emphatic, despite the platitudinous line “You always make me high, whenever I feel low.” In unison with Jackson, Sumner sounds entirely sincere and cynicism flies out the window. The string pattern that comes in towards the end is utterly magical, used sparingly but providing a truly perfect finishing touch to a weirdly brilliant song.
Elsewhere, ‘Stray Dog’ features Iggy Pop intoning Sumner’s words to menacing effect and ‘Superheated’ features Brandon Flowers and manages to sound a bit like New Order covering The Killers without it being shit. Which is quite an achievement. One other figure from outside the band features in spirit if nothing else, as ‘Nothing But A Fool’ has that signature New Order bass sound despite a certain person’s absence from proceedings. On this evidence, they’re better off as they are.
It’s not a perfect album and the traditional weaknesses remain but they are rarely an issue and, more importantly, completely eclipsed by the brilliance of a good chunk of this material. That four song run I mentioned earlier is a remarkable feature on a 2015 New Order record when you reflect on the past twenty years. The title, ‘Music Complete’, tells you that they knew they’d got it right this time and I’m certainly not going to argue. Does make you wonder who’s going to fly in from leftfield to deliver an unexpected belter in 2016 though.