“You know I’ve met a lot of cool chicks, but I’ve never met a girl with all her own teeth”.
A recent report in The Times quoted a survey, stating that the most common cause of embarrassment among teenagers is the sight of their dad dancing at a disco. I hope then that none of Bernard Sumner’s children have caught glimpse of his performance of “Fine Time” on Top of the Pops. At that time, New Order meant everything to me. Sure, I liked other bands, even loved a couple; but I anticipated the release of Technique like no other. But even I saw Sumner’s gurning face, seemingly patting the heads of invisible goblins that only he could see, and felt slightly uncomfortable. This was a move I was unlikely to replicate at the sixth form disco. But then the album came out, and it all made sense. I knew why Sumner was dancing. This was music to dance to.
But it’s not a dance album. A major misconception of Technique is that it is out and out electronic music, but in fact its every bit as conventional a New Order album as anything that preceded it. Its closest companion is Brotherhood, and in fact songs “All The Way”, “Love Less” and “Guilty Partner” wouldn’t sound out of place there against “Paradise” and “Weirdo”. “All the Way” in particular is New Order at their melodic best, lyrics (“it takes years to find the nerve.. to find the truth, inside yourself“) that could have come out of a motivational pamphlet. Closing track “Dream Attack” and the side two opener “Run” also combine both sides of their talents, Peter Hook’s rambling bass-lines prominent in the mix and Gilbert’s simple but effective chord structures.
It is maybe considered their dance opus as the more electronic tracks seem to dominate the album. “Jetstream” aside, “Fine Time” is probably the crappest single of their career, yet strangely I have a real soft spot for it. I remember fondly seeing the lyrics printed in Smash Hits, marvelling at how awful they really were, the song itself akin to listening to someone pressing random keyboard pre-sets whilst Sumner blurts out the first thing to come into his head. “Mr Disco” is a triumph of production over substance, where everything sounds so crystal clear and dynamic that you somehow ignore the slender melody.
The highlights for me are “Dream Attack”, its extended ending beautiful, guitars and keyboards twisting and shimmering like tinsel on a Christmas tree. And then “Round and Round”, an exceptional track. Personally, I prefer the single mix to the one on the album; it’s smoother, more elegant than its jagged cousin. On the album it sounds brittle, the drums snapping like breadsticks, little trace of reverb on Sumner’s vocal. The single mix is glossier, and all the better for it. Best of all, on the bonus CD the best version of all has been included – Kevin Sanderson’s utterly wonderful extended mix. Here, the song is stripped to its component parts, building it up again in pieces before taking a breath into the opening verse, the harmony line on the chorus a significant contribution to the tracks emotional intensity.
I am reviewing the music, not the condition of the remastering, and I know there have been some complaints as to the quality, pops and creaks suggesting that vinyl copies have been used for the source material. I don’t want to add any comment to this, but this bonus CD is the poorest offering out of all the new editions. B-sides from the Technique singles sound more like keyboard demos, “MTO” in particular the sort of thing you could knock up yourself in Garageband in an evening. The “Fine Time” mixes are nothing special, “Don’t Do It” awkward and clumsy, “Best & Marsh” plodding and dated.
These collectors’ editions have been something of a letdown, particularly compared to what has been offered by their contemporaries. The Cure have released exceptional expanded versions of their albums, containing a smorgasbord of demos, alternative mixes and live takes. Depeche Mode’s repackaged albums, although containing nothing new musically, at least showed a bit of time and effort, with the insightful documentaries and 5.1 mixes. These releases are light by comparison, offering little new material. People who do not have these albums can still pick up the original releases for about a fiver each, which I suggest they do. Fans would be best placed to cherry pick the tracks they don’t have from Itunes, which is what I have done. The first five albums from New Order all have their merits, and all deserve a place in your collection. Sadly though, these re-issues (in particular Technique) fall short on many levels, making them hard to recommend.
Original Release: 81%
This edition: 58%