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Music Review: New Order – Technique

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Of all of the Salford foursomes' albums between Movement and Republic, Technique seems to be regarded by certain critics, and even some of their most rabid fans, with a degree of rare noncommittal apathy. Dismissed at the time as the “Ibiza” album, the widely held perception on it's release was that it embodied the pitfalls of their over indulgence in artisan remixers, with the resulting concoction sounding like it was a remix of a New Order album.

Even speaking in "True Faith: An Armchair Guide to New Order", the less than critically reproachful Dave Thompson describes it as “…unquestionably a child of it’s time” (The period in question being the Madchester era – despite Technique’s release predating The Stone Roses eponymous debut by almost 10 months) and then by his own standards going on to opine savagely that it “…loses much of it’s appeal if you should ever tire of the epoch it evokes”.

Much of that opinion was formed, you may think, in reaction to the band’s well publicized activities whilst on the white island, as an initial four months located at Mediterranean Studios resulted in a few drum tracks, but primarily a newly gained public reputation for rock star entertainment. Finished off (Or more accurately started) at Peter Gabriel’s studio in the less hedonistic British city of Bath, if Technique is to be associated with any place in the world other than Manchester, it should surely have been Detroit; had opener "Fine Time" been stripped of it’s cliched blaxploitation vocal and then quietly released under a pseudonym by say, Juan Atkins or Marshall Jefferson, it would've immediately been hailed as a techno classic.

Two and a half years after the at best patchy Brotherhood, it also probably suffers in purists eyes from being the first New Order album which commits the crime of sidelining the group's traditional chassis. This heresy – neutering Peter Hook’s blood-axe in preference for banks of computer generated melodies whilst the rhythm giver fumbles around in the mix sounding like a lost child – is in fact what made Technique so compulsive and accessible. Look, it’s still patently a New Order album; "All The Way" sounds like a cleaned up cousin to anything on Brotherhood, "Run" takes the thread back even further to Low-Life and "Guilty Partner" into eons past via Power, Corruption and Lies.

But it’s the closing trio that seem to have convinced everyone that the drugs in this case definitely didn’t work. So ok, "Mr.Disco", "Dream Attack" and "Vanishing Point" find the band coming closest to the subversively gleaming pop of The Pet Shop Boys, but Sumner’s vocals are hardly redolent of Neil Tennant’s Manilow-in-furs and in general this was stuff far superior to the processed and plain offensive output of that era. The irony was that trading in Hook’s bass for 4/4 aesthetics meant that they were doing what they had always done, steering their own course, still remaining on the edge of the technology’s meaningful use, but in the process producing an utterly human noise, no matter how many silicon chips it took.

Thompson and many other people who should have known better have missed the point completely: the obvious issues of timeliness aside, Technique is no more a stylistic product of Madchester or even acid house than Unknown Pleasures was of post punk. New Order exist/existed to spite convention, swimming against the tide not for commercial pursuit but for the artistic joy only true contrarians find in perverting the music industry’s capitalistic notions. They may have made better music, but never because they thought that they should sound like someone else.

Oh, and it's been reissued with a superfluous bonus disc for completists which at least serves to underline the quality of it's senior partner. The strange thing is that it's this extra tinkering that sounds dated, with the exception of "World In Motion", still the best song ever written about football, bar none.  

The denouement of this story is now well documented; with the iconic Factory label less than a couple of years from total collapse, the band are adamant that they never received a penny from impressario Tony Wilson for their efforts, the money instead being diverted to fund the Happy Mondays train-wreck career and the doomed Hacienda nightclub. Whilst the latter is now a block of flats for the well heeled, Technique remains frozen, the perfect embodiment of machine induced pleasure. 

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About AndyP

  • zingzing

    hmm. i’ve nearly always heard of technique as one of their best. maybe lowlife gets a bit more street cred (god knows why…), but this one is usually in the mix.

    really, you must have read everything written about the album that i haven’t, and vice versa. it’s a divisive album in many ways. those people who don’t like it really don’t like it. but most people seem to like it a lot. i think it might be their best, but it depends on what mood i’m in. it is, at least, their most solid album, front to back.

    as far as it being stuck in a certain time, that may be true for fine time… but not much of the rest of the album really screams ibiza. i think that part of its history is given a little too much credit. fine time was certainly made in 89 (or 88), but the rest sounds like a new order album made in the 80s (when they were gods), nothing more.

    (and the vocal on fine time is cliche… but hilarious–and i think the hilarity wins out.)

    good review, even if i don’t think your tone is properly reverent of one of the greatest albums of the decade… blahblahblah. going to check and see if you’ve reviewed any of the other reissues… i’ve heard the sound quality on some of bonus tracks is just terrible, like it was mastered from the vinyl… got any words on that?

  • http://www.arcticreviews.co.uk/index.php?section=1 Andy Peterson

    Hi, thanks for the comments (I think!). I don’t have any words on the other re-issues or the sound quality of their “bonus” material – Stephen Morris had already described much of that content pre-release as coming from tapes which had been in storage unplayed for more than 20 years so my expectations weren’t very high. I’m not sure I should show anybody any “reverence”, I like what I like – don’t forget that once a song is realeased it’s no longer the property of the artist but the person who’s consuming it. Technique means the most to me as a New Order album only because I finally got what I thought they were trying to do. It was also – if nothing else symbolically – their last release on Factory, although having written that I’m not sure I’m just swapping revisionism for nostalgia, wishing the label could somehow still exist whilst choosing to ignore some of the dross Wilson’s curio released. With the band on permanent hiatus however, it seems that leftover anachronisms are the best we can hope for.

  • http://thesmokingcupcake.com/ The Smoking Cupcake

    To say this “review” is a load of horsesh*t is an understatement.

  • Alex

    Odd review, some don’t like it (usually dyed in the wool Joy Division types who site Movement as their favourite NO album), but I and most New Order fans would probably say Technique is their best album, because it is.

    The final 3 tracks is one the finest endings to any album, ever.

  • http://www.rosedigitalmarketing.com Christopher Rose

    The finest ending to any album ever? I love New Order – up to the mid 90s at least – but that is simply ridiculous!

  • http://www.rosedigitalmarketing.com Christopher Rose

    In fact, having just listened again to Technique and its successor, Republic, I’d have to say the latter is more fun, although surely neither of them can seriously be considered their best work.

  • Neil

    Yes, for a certain Generation, this is maybe the best album ending ever.
    Killer tracks, Mr Disco, Vanishing Point, Dream Attack.
    Standout album from from stand up guys. Hook nonsense is just that. Nonsense.
    Rob bang their heads together….