Album Review: New Order - Technique
The cover of New Order’s 1989 release, Technique, depicts a cherub upon a gradient of pinks and purples. Peter Saville, New Order’s long-time sleeve designer suggested, retrospectively, that this was to reflect the hedonism of the time, an ode to the drug-fuelled excess of the 1980s. While this may be true, the striking cover can also be seen as a break with the past. New Order’s previous covers had been somewhat muted, the monotone cover of 1985’s Low-Life, the brazen aluminium of 1986’s Brotherhood, even the pops of colour in 1983’s Power, Corruption and Lies cover seemed subdued somehow. The music reflects this. Similarly, the music held within Technique reflects its cover – a break with the past in favour for an embracing of all the musical touches New Order had previously only hinted at; a complete celebration of dance.
Technique is timeless – not in the music, which couldn’t have come from any other year (the acid-soaked synth arpeggios of ‘Fine Time’ sound dated even with remastering) – but it remains timeless through New Order’s transcending melancholy. Guitarist and vocalist Bernard Sumner has never hit such a peak as a lyricist, his oft-ridiculed half-baked lyrics giving way for something that is universal and frankly gorgeous. Sincerity is mixed with anger to form a wide emotional palette, from the lamenting ‘Guilty Partner,’ to the optimistic ‘Run,’ to the lust-fuelled ‘Fine Time.’
Never have lines such as “But I know that I’m okay/ ‘Cause you’re here with me today,” infused with an emotional simplicity that only Sumner and his naïvely strained voice could possibly hope to pull off without sounding clichéd, hit such an emotional resonance. The masterstroke of the first side is undoubtedly ‘Love Less’, which is pure heartbreak condensed into just three minutes of pop bliss. It unites anger: “It’s not your right to be, such much my enemy”, sorrow :“I spent a lifetime working on you and you won’t even talk to me” and eventual consolation: “I don’t know why even try, because it all comes down to this.” ‘Love Less,’ as a song, is masterful.
Colour, melancholia and optimism come together in one album to create an experience that no other band apart from New Order could pull off. As a summation of four albums, each a perfect in their own right, Technique is a masterpiece.
– Kieran Baddeley
However, none of Sumner’s lyrics would hit quite so hard without the incredible backing that the rest of New Order provide. Gillian Gilbert’s synths trickle over ‘Round and Round’ like rain on a roof, while Sumner provides one of his catchiest choruses. Hooky’s bass, which finally became an integrated instrument on Brotherhood, rather than something to pop in and out of the song when the other musicians had finished, reaches a peak on ‘Guilty Partner,’ grounding Sumner’s lilting guitar and out-doing The Cure at their own game.
The peak of Technique (and in my opinion, New Order’s defining moment) is saved till last, with ‘Dream Attack”. Sumner’s lyrics drive a wistful verse, surrounded by layers of his own guitar before Gilbert’s synth take over and seethe into Stephen Morris’ drum programming to punctuate every word of Sumner’s chorus of “I don’t belong to no one but I wanna be with you.” The final two minutes can be seen as New Order’s best moment, turned up to full volume, Sumner – one of the best and most underrated guitar players of his generation – plays one of his best solos, accompanied by an ever-driving synth line, highlighted with Stephen Morris’ best drumming. It’s purely magnificent.
It is this outro that brings the review full circle. Such a pummelling musical break transcends everything New Order had done before and also serves as the end of an era. New Order had wrung everything they could out of the 1980s and in doing so, ushered in a new decade with the best album they had made or ever would make. Colour, melancholia and optimism come together in one album to create an experience that no other band apart from New Order could pull off. As a summation of four albums, each a perfect in their own right, Technique is a masterpiece.
New Order funnel all their previous work into an album of pure colour that serves as an ushering in of a new decade.