This review originally published in 'One Week To Live' Magazine in April 2007
New Order- Technique
The rise of acid house and Balearic culture caught New Order at a difficult time, having shrugged off their indie roots as Joy Division in the aftermath of Ian Curtis’ suicide; they had taken their beat back to the street whilst rewriting the future of electronic music.
However by 87 the climate was changing and the rise of ‘new pop’ acts they had influenced, led New Order to strike out in a more chart friendly vein. Poaching Stephen Hague, the producer who led the Pet Shop Boys to massive success, they produced the classic ‘True Faith’ bringing their sound to a far wider audience, but ultimately leaving them lacking direction. Meanwhile however the world had been listening to New Orders early synth led sequenced tracks, and the huge impact of Acid house in 1997/8 left New Order lagging behind the very music they were instrumental in creating.
Having struggled through problematic personal problems, the band decamped to Ibiza at the beginning of 88 to immerse themselves in the new Balearic sound that was emerging from the White Island. Here clubs such as Space were mixing house, hip hop, pop and rock in a revolutionary fashion that mirrored the bands own musical journey over the past decade.
Renting a villa in the hills New Order threw themselves wholeheartedly into the hedonistic party lifestyle of the island and began work on a new album. Inspirited by the enthusiasm and energy of the scene they were the spiritual predecessors of, the band created what is believed by many to be their finest album ‘Technique’
Surprising critics and fans alike, the opener ‘Fine Time’ took the classic New Order blueprint, united it with the driving rhythms of house and created a bass led pulsating monster of a track; ultimately their greatest dancefloor statement since Blue Monday.
Released in Nov 88 two months ahead of the album, Fine Time signalled the return of the band to the clubs whilst scoring them a chart hit. Featuring a bleating sheep and Barney Sumner’s sleazy Barry White-esque drawl, the single clearly saw the band rightfully reclaiming their techno crown.
Whilst the album retains a rare uniform quality throughout, Standout tracks include the energetic “Round and Round”, a tense and minimal number that sees Sumner’s soul laid bare over a relentless precision bass groove, and Run, the jewel in the albums crown.
In many eyes Run remains New Orders finest moment; more melodic and guitar-led than many of the tracks on the album, Run is a sublime paean to love lost, underpinned by startlingly beautiful melodic interplay, that captures the wedding of acid house and traditional British pop in its purest form. Extraordinarily the single release was subsequently pulled from the shelves due to a lawsuit by MOR rocker John Denver who claimed a theft of his hit ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’, the similarity is hard to distinguish, however the resulting settlement left the release a collectors item.
Technique is not all Ibiza rave madness however as there are sufficient ‘classic’ New Order moments (Guilty Partner and the atmospheric Loveless) to retain a bridge to their earlier, more introspective compositions. This eclecticism means the strength of this album lies not in a collection of DJ fodder tracks, but its ability to stand up solely on the quality of its songs. Lead singer Sumner had recently come through an acrimonious divorce and the combination of his melancholic vocals, and the sunshine and party vibe of Ibiza give this record its masterpiece status
Technique came at a time for New Order when they needed it most, and performed the task of ensuring them a reliantly seamless transition across the decades. To come was the football terrace brilliance of ‘World in Motion’ (probably the last straw for Joy division fans’), and a domination of the house sound.
Indie Dance was a term bandied around without abandon at the beginning of the 1990’s, the fusion of house music with rock heralded as the new punk. In hindsight it was only New Order who really got it right, whilst the other bands grappled to meld funky drummer beats to their traditional rock staples, New Order the band that started it all, effortlessly pulled off the only real marriage of disco and punk, and in the process created the first great album of the nineties.