From October 2009:
What is there to say about New Order? And how on earth do you select from an almost thirty year career? Two posts on New Order, one covering Technique-related material. And the other their rather lost millennium remixes.
Everyone knows that Manchester-band New Order were formed from the ashes of Joy Division in the aftermath of Ian Curtis’ suicide. They would become one of the UK’s most influential bands of the 1980s once they emerged from the shadow of Ian and particularly after the ground-breaking “Blue Monday” single in 1983. Managing that trick once is astonishing enough but to repeat that for the 1990s through their hugely influential “Technique” (albeit released in 1989) album is amazing. Of “Technique”, Stylus magazine says:
Released in 1989, in the embryonic days of the “Madchester” dance craze which swept through England, Technique is the halcyon album of that brief, but bright period, which produced some of the most insanely dancable rock ever created, but also some of the most disposable day-glo detritus as well. Countless imitators have tried to recreate this album’s sound and mood, with very few even coming close.
Technique will always have the honor of being known as the last ‘great’ New Order album. A kaleidoscopic trip of acid-washed dancefloor anthems and melancholy, melodic guitar pop, Technique is at once a celebratory affair, and a mournful look into breakdowns (of both Sumner’s personal life, and of the band itself).
What makes Technique so revelatory and important nowadays (aside from kick-starting an entire genre, along with the Stone Roses’ debut), is not the production (admittedly, the synths sound dated by today’s standards), or the songwriting (though it was the strongest batch of songs churned out by the group yet). It’s the simple fact that New Order is able to keep their sound fresh and exciting nearly a decade into the game. Technique works equally well in a sweaty Ibiza club as it does at home.
Sumner truly comes into his own as a vocalist, with his most confident vocals ever, and a more literate set of lyrics than anyone thought him capable of (especially with all the drugs hindering him at that point). Peter Hook’s knuckle-dragging basslines were never more fluid and concise, forming a rock-solid foundation for Sumner’s alternately jagged and soothing guitars to float above.
Technique is really two albums in one: on one hand, you have intense, four-on-the-floor danceclub anthems; neon odes to drugs, sex and decadence. On the other you have alternatingly sunny and moody guitar-based rock songs, most of these detailing the turmoil the group was going through at the time, most notably the dissolution of Sumner’s marriage. The album traverses the gap between ecstasy-fueled jubilation to the pang of unrequited love within a hearbeat, and makes it work.
Kicking off with the tongue-in-cheek “Fine Time,” with its pounding drum beats and swirling washes of percolating synths, propels you into the album’s singular word instantaneously. Sumner’s filtered vocal line jokingly tosses aside intentionally one-dimensional lyrics such as “Sophisticated lady/You know I’ve met a lot of cool chicks/But you’ve got style/You’ve got class/But most of all – you’ve got love technique” while a sheep bleats in the background. It’s a wonderful pastiche of club culture, poking fun at it while celebrating it at the same time.
New Order quickly switches gears for the acoustic guitar-oriented jam of “All The Way,” which gallops along on jaunty rhythms and a gaseous burst of synthesizer in the chorus that is nothing less than the audio equivalent of the sun breaking over the horizon. “I don’t give a damn about what all those people say/It takes years to find the nerve to be apart from what you’ve done/To find the truth inside yourself and not depend on anyone,” Sumner sings, finally shaking off the last spectral shackles of Joy Division.
“Love Less” shows Sumner continuing to be more emotionally direct than he’s ever allowed himself before, providing us with a ringside seat to his painful divorce, with telling lines like “I spent a lifetime working on you/And you won’t even talk to me/Can’t you see/It’s not your right to be so much my enemy.” As the melancholy acoustic pop of “Love Less” fades away, the album switches back into club mode with “Round And Round”, though keeping the lyrical theme constant.
The spiteful lyrics show a character spiraling out of control, threatening to “Get rid of you,” if you mess with him, while a throbbing bassline reinforces the implied menace of the lyrics. “Round And Round” doesn’t let the album loose sight of its goals, however; a ping-ponging synth pogos around to let you know that you are, in fact, supposed to be dancing. Technique reaches its lowest ebb, emotionally, with “Guilty Partner.” All of the album’s anger spent on “Round And Round,” a resigned, tepid bass from Hook frames this gray dirge, as Sumner tries to convice himself there’s hope left, as the tension builds with the appearance of a mournful synthesizer which only leads to a brief, unresolved close of machine-gun drumming, closing out the album’s first half.
“Run” and “Mr. Disco” jump-start the proceedings once again, bringing the album to the brink of climax. “Run” will always be most-known as the song John Denver sued them over, claiming that the riff used here is the same as “Leaving On A Jet Plane.” Similarities aside, “Run” positively soars with Sumner’s crooning vocal and delicate acoustic guitar accentuated by an angelic aurora borealis of synthesizers. “Mr. Disco” once again flips back to the club, a jet-setting tale of lost love, set to cooing synths and Atari bursts of programmed drum beats. Sporting one of Sumner’s most unforgettable melodies, “Mr. Disco” may be too bouncy for some, but it’s refreshing to see New Order in such a carefree mode, previously only seen in scattered singles such as “Bizarre Love Triangle.”
“Vanishing Point” thrusts Technique into overdrive, with its epic production and searching lyrics – this is prog rock crossed with synth-pop. A choppy synthesized piano refrain is immersed in pulsating drum breaks and stabbing icicles of synthesizers. Sumner can be a tad pontificating on this track, falling into the lyrical traps he set for himself on earlier albums (let’s face it – Sumner isn’t half the wordsmith Ian Curtis was), but the breezy electronic currents are more than enough to buoy the track.
“Dream Attack” caps off the album, a perfect encapsulation of all the album’s various sounds and moods. Kicking off with a deep bassline, and progressing from there to craggy electric guitars and vaguely psychedelic electronic arrangements, “Dream Attack” shows Sumner at his most wistful, seemingly at grips with his life, but still wanting the love he’s lost back. “I don’t belong to no one/But I want to be with you/I can’t be owned by no one/What am I supposed to do?” It brings the album full-circle musically, and leaves the emotional end dangling, unsure of what will come next.
New Order – Round & Round (Detroit Mix) Kevin Saunderson Mix
New Order – Vanishing Point (Instrumental)
New Order – Run 2 (Extended Version)
New Order – Fine Line
New Order – World In Motion (No Alla Violenza) Andrew Weatherall Mix