For fans of the legendary synth pioneers New Order, here’s the good news: their new studio album, Music Complete, is their best since the early 1990s. Now, though the sporadically-reuniting band had actually put out only three studio releases between then and the new album, the latter remains a decent return to form that could, at long last, herald a new period of sustained popularity for the band.
That’s not to say that Music Complete quite captures the same thorough quality as the classic 1980s releases. Among occasional gems like the latest single “Plastic”, many of the tracks remain firmly within the band’s guitar-driven comfort zone of the last three studio albums. Basically, there’s not really enough of the courage to experiment that resulted in the satisfying sounds of the New Order heyday.
In fact, it is often the guest vocalists who bring the kind of unpredictability and quirkiness that the album is crying out for. The youthful and energetic vocals of La Roux’s Elly Jackson brilliantly complement the shamelessly upbeat disco of “Tutti Frutti”, while Iggy Pop’s growling narration-of-sorts on “Stray Dog” suits the deliciously dark tone of a song that is close to unrecognizable as New Order.
If you were hoping for an album that restores New Order to the consistency catchy and innovative electro-rock of their most commercially successful period of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Music Complete isn’t it. What you can instead expect is a solid and diverse, if probably overly safe, collection of songs that, contrary to the title, don’t quite paint the complete picture of New Order.