In the spring of 1980, days before their first US tour and at the height of their career, the lead singer of Joy Division, Ian Curtis, committed suicide. The remaining band members decided to continue playing together, and later that year officially became New Order. With their unique blend of heavy synthesisers, techno beats and rock guitar lines, the band went on to become innovators of alternative dance music.
After 25 years of playing as New Order (albeit with two extended hiatuses from 1993 – 1998 and 2007 – 2011), it’s no wonder the band are feeling a little ‘Restless’. The track, the lead single off their first full studio album since 2005, Music Complete, bemoans the state of the world, focussing particularly on greed and the economy: “The fiscal climate isn’t looking good/ Get out of town/ The streets are running rivers full of blood,” sings frontman Bernard Sumner, in his unmistakeable passive drawl, before going on to complain, “Ain’t got no interest/ I couldn’t care less.”
The lacklustre content of the lyrics is reflected in the accompaniment, which is heavily guitar-centric, with a single, repeated chord sequence with light new wave style synth flourishes over the top. As is their signature, the production on the track is polished and clean, which usually adds a gloss to their music, but with the absence of a heavy synth line, here it just sounds boring. Remove the vocal track and one wouldn’t know this was a New Order song; it could simply be a group of session musicians playing together in a studio.
For a band that helped pioneer dance rock music and has released consistently excellent material, ‘Restless’ is a surprisingly middle-of-the-road and undeveloped track, especially considering its status as lead single from the album. The five remixes included on the CD single (Extended 12” Mix, Agoria Remix, xxxy Build Up Mix, RAC Mix and Andrew Weatherall Remix) do little to add energy to the ailing track, so in the chorus, when Sumner croons, “In this changing world/ I am lost for words,” the listener finds themselves wondering if that, perhaps, is a good thing.
The full album, Music Complete, has now been released and, thankfully, ‘Restless’ is its weakest track. The album is dancier, more upbeat and energetic – more New Order. Every band releases a lesser track every now and then, but New Order continues to make innovative and melodic music. As they remind us at the end of this track, “It’s not hopeless/ If you take rest.”
By Tushara Rose, photograph courtesy of Nick Wilson