Review Summary: A dubious honor: New Order's most lackluster effort yet.
It's tempting to appraise Music Complete
as a return to New Order ethos pre-Technique
, before Peter Hook was an enemy, Gillian Gilbert fought cancer, and we were forced to endure not just Waiting for the Siren's Call
but a turgid follow-up composed of its better forgotten loose cuts. It's understandable: for a band who (twice) single-handedly revolutionized rock music and brought electronic dance music to the masses, their output since the demise of Factory has been inconsistent at best. This is a band who, despite achievements, managed exactly one good song in the '90s ("Regret"), only to spend twenty years spectacularly flaming out. Understandably, some will feel less cheated if they could hear Sumner take at least one more stab at electronic arrangements; however, it's an insult to think Music Complete
would best service anyone. It's often nothing more than vapid gesturing; a farce of synths masquerading as songwriting and good will.
The fact that the core members appear to be in a better place as of late speaks volumes to Hook's contributions to the music. Without wanting to overstate the case, his absence is conspicuous: try not to forget "What Do You Want from Me", the greatest song New Order never wrote, retired to Monaco's debut and never given its proper due. Melodically speaking, it's everything Hook brought to New Order, replete with tight bass grooves and insatiably subtle vocal hooks. Music Complete
doesn't have any of those moments: most songs find themselves harking back to "Regret" at the best of times and "World in Motion" at their absolute worst. Particularly poor is the back-to-back run of "Tutti Frutti" and "People on the High Line", so vapid and trying they fail to distinguish these revolutionaries from A Flock of Seagulls or The Thompson Twins. This occurs often- lead single "Restless" sort of sets the tone right by cooperating guitar and synths, only for momentum to be eradicated by the titular sound of "Plastic".
It's a shame that such faceless and generic compositions are being thought of as 'New Order standards'; someone should have told Sumner that we didn't really care if New Order continued with guitars instead of synths, we just cared about whether or not the band were inspired enough to bother. Get Ready
, for all of its flaws (and there were many), at the very least showed confidence in the band progressing in guitar-oriented directions. In 2015, this material sounds like pander, as if knowingly, Sumner has loaded the album with far-flung guest features (Iggy Pop, Brandon Flowers, et al.), Gilbert's synths, and Peter Saville artwork as so to impress a now despondent audience. It rarely ever goes above functional, and what we're left with is Music Complete
, an album deserving of the dubious honor of New Order's most lackluster effort yet.