When New Order mounted a comeback in 2001 after a hiatus of 8 years I was glad to see them, but other than Crystal and 60 Miles an hour, honestly the album left me cold. However, Music Complete seems to be the comeback I was waiting for.
Restless is a catchy pop single about not feeling like you fit in with this ever changing world, and being left cold when the weight of the world is heavier than your own expectations of life. It’s cheery apathy which questions can just a taste of love sustain you and can we achieve our impossible dreams in a world that tries at every time to prevent you from doing so.
Singularity harks back to the bands origins in Joy Division with a bass line so reminiscent of Shadowplay I was half convinced it was a Joy Division song I’d never heard. It recalls the best of their past work whilst giving a knowing nod to their past. Singularity is about attraction, but also about trying to escape from the prescribed roles and moving on with our lives one day at a time. It’s a song about recognising and remembering your past, but not being bound by it and letting it define your present or future.
One day at a time/Inch by inch/For every kiss/On lovers’ lips/For all lost souls/Who can’t come home/Friends, not here/We shared our tears.
Plastic examines the superficiality of attraction, the confusion of love with lust and how love can be an intoxicating poison. The song turns completely around in the end, starting off with showering the object of his desire with praise, to a middle act of uncertainty in the tumult of all of these emotions when Bernard Sumner sings “If you break me, will you fix me?/And if I’m missing, will you miss me?” The song ends with the realisation of the artificiality of his love interest and him leaving her behind.
Stray Dog features Iggy Pop’s inimitable drawling narration like a Faustian pact in a boxcar with bootleg liquor. The song’s about unconditional love, alcoholism and the temporariness of love and how sometimes love is the act of staying in one place when our bodies and lives just want to move on, no matter how good our intentions are.
The album is dark, brooding and industrial yet still great electronic pop, recalling both early New Order and the more pop side of the band. The title “Music Complete” is apt, as this feels like the band’s most complete and accomplished album in years, and is a real return to form.
Hey, I did another article for Get Into This! This time on video game music in popular culture. Check it out.
The band’s first album in seven years, The Light in You shows that some albums are worth the wait. The Queen of Swans is a song about the transformative nature of love, juxtaposed with images of ghosts and death, and references Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, a place where lovers or the lovelorn leave letters in the crypt. Are You Ready similarly deals with falling in love with as an otherworld experience that can only be explained in metaphor. The album is replete with the idea that love is transitory, fleeting, sad and beautiful, but its worth feeling. It’s an eerie, twinkling, intimate and introspective album. Jonathan Donahue sings lyrics to us from another world: a world that still has magic and still has the ability to stir something inside of us and make us feel something.
Originally printed in Issue #326 of the Kirkby Extra, November 2015.
Like Grapes of Wrath in a drunken haze whilst getting the taxi back from the night before, B’lieve I’m Goin’ Down has a detached nihilism about it – you’re along for the ride but you’re not really there. This is aided by the fact that the songs drift one into another – they’re all good songs, but feel like different movements of the same song rather than each son being its own thing.
Pretty Pimpin’ is a song about disassociation with the man in the mirror with lines about “brushing a strangers teeth, but they were my teeth,” and of drunken dislocation with time as well as self. The song has a lackadaisical quality about it, of just drifting from day to day feeling like someone else and not knowing what day it is. The repeated refrain, “I woke up this morning didn’t recognise this boy in the mirror” also speaks of the man in the song not recognising who he is anymore as he grows older – he’s still a boy, but he’s not the boy he was, and every day he’s someone different.
"I was buggin' out 'bout a couple-two-three things
Picked up my microphone and started to sing
I was feeling worse than the words come out
Fell on some keys, and this song walked outta me"
Lost My Head is about song writing as emotional exorcism, getting the words out of your system so they don’t churn around your head and drive you crazy. Vile nails it when he says he doesn’t want to talk or shout about it, but he will sing about it – there’s something of a confession ethic in getting on stage and singing out your troubles rather than just talking about it. Why confide in a friend when you can confide in a room full of strangers? Performance is catharsis when you’re being ridden by the demon of inspiration.
The album is reminiscent in tone of Bruce Springstein with shades of Ian McCullloch, replete with world weariness and imagery of the outlaw on a dusty pilgrimage through the heart of America that’s part myth and part everyday mundanity. I just wish that each track felt more like a distinct adventure from the last – if there’s one complaint I have about the album it’s that everything blurs into one, which is a shame because I do like it and the feeling and scenery the music evokes in me. But maybe that’s the point of it and I’ve missed it completely: that the songs travel from one to another like a car or a train passing through places just long enough to take in the scenery and atmosphere but not long enough to put your feet on the ground and get your bearings.
Monthly music columnist for the Kirkby Extra, sometimes article writer for Get Into This. Freelance writer/artist/maker.