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One of those rare albums where all its parts come together in the right proportions into an even greater whole. Sumner's nasal vocals and spangly guitars, Hook's melodic bass gymnastics, Gilbert and Morris's sparkling keyboards and beats combine into the most perfectly formed nuggets of dancy guitar pop. Coming along at the right time, alongside the acid-house and burgeoning Madchester movement, it's gained an iconic status, but the quality of its content legitimises that coolness.
The one word that sums it up is "tunes". Unlike contemporaries the Smiths, New Order weren't really a lyrics band, so they made up for it by stuffing twice as many tunes into their songs as is reasonably expected. There's not really much acid house on here, despite the album's image. Apart from "Fine Time" of course, a chaotic but dazzling dance opener. You have to build up a bank of coolness through the years to be allowed to spend it with a Barry White-style voiceover of "most of all, you got lurve technique". The surreal sheep noises are an interesting follow up to the frogs on "Perfect Kiss".
Songs like "All the Way" and "Love Less" show how New Order can make great jangly guitar indie when the dance beats are turned off, excusing their dodgy efforts on "Brotherhood". Their arrangements are immaculate. Like in the outro of "Run", when you think they can't possibly pack any more simultaneous tunes into the mix, that twelve-string refrain comes in. The soaring keyboard line on "Vanishing Point" is simple but gorgeous.
Apart from the singles compilation "Substance", this is the one truly essential New Order album.
March 27, 2005