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Album review: New Order’s ‘Music Complete’

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Four stars

New Order Music Complete

With a new New Order studio album—especially a decade after the last—one lowers their expectations. The past two have sagged with time, revealing a band on autopilot. And there’s an initial hesitance to accept bassist Tom Chapman in the absence of the irreplaceable Peter Hook, whose melodic bass leads all but make him the architect of the English group’s sound.

But three listens in, Music Complete totally clicks. By shaking off the soft-rock doldrums of the recent past, accentuating their true roots—the rhythmic synth-pop of 1980s New Order with a strong undercurrent of Joy Division’s tense post-punk—and employing a more collaborative process in the studio (the list of guest producers and vocalists includes The Chemical Brothers’ Tom Rowlands, Iggy Pop and The Killers’ Brandon Flowers), Bernard Sumner and crew sound both reflective and refreshed.

he tunes are there (seductive single “Plastic,” an enraptured Sumner returning the hat-tip to the Pet Shop Boys), as are the ideal bridging of old and new (the hell-bent dancefloor conquest of “Singularity”) and the stylistic shifts from song to song (the playful Italo disco of “Tutti Frutti” into the Madchester reverie of “People on the High Line”)—all of which bodes well for both loyalists and skeptics.

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