Last September, New Order released their first new album in ten years. Music Complete, whilst a significant punch above the rest of the band’s post-Technique catalogue, was a flummoxing record, managing to sound both fresh and protracted, with every track (bar one) surpassing the five-minute mark. My optimistic, parting comment on the album proper, was that despite some drag, there was hope. It was my feeling that any ‘extended’ versions of these songs would be definitive and that the album actually comprised clumsy edits from these superior mixes – edits at odds with themselves, desiring to be short without compromise, landing us ironically at some slightly lacking, slightly-too-long songs. As a super-deluxe schmuck, you see, I’d pre-ordered the album as a vinyl box-set, containing the original LP in addition to nine 12” singles featuring extended versions of each track. I thought I was head ahead of the game predicting the quality of these new mixes. Unfortunately, the box didn’t ship until mid-late November – more luckily however, my prediction was correct.
As before, eleven New Order tracks are represented here; the exact same songs as previously released on Music Complete. They vary from the excellent to the average, though as established in my original review, weaker moments are not unsalvageable – even my least favourite track here, Stray Dog, sounds thicker, stronger and simply more new wave in a broadened, more heavily disco-oriented mix – obviously then that which sounded fantastic before, now sounds even better. The extension process has had a similar effect on Academic; before sub-par, its now fully-exposed constituent parts comprise a glistening amalgam. Plastic, a radio-unfriendly and partial-feeling 6:55 before, is, in its fully-fledged form, a glorious, throbbing 9:06; similarly, Superheated, featuring The Killers’ Brandon Flowers, grows two minutes in length, taking on a brasher, EDM form than before and accentuating Bernard Sumner’s vocal in the chorus (much to the joy of hard-core fans who flocked to forums to express their anxieties surrounding Flowers’ apparently threatening guest-spot).
Available digitally, Complete Music has also received a CD release (and not a vinyl one, thank god – my wallet needs to recuperate). My one criticism of this record then, would be its cheap feel – it’s clearly been made with the fans in mind, and yet it feels ever so slightly lacking. It’s packaged in a flimsy card sleeve, with the extended mixes needlessly spread over two CDs, with a download code enclosed for the original album (most had hoped for the mixes on one CD, and the album on another). Most annoyingly, the selection of versions is by no means definitive – sure, this is the best way to hear the album, but an absolutely complete collection of variants would have better warranted another £9.99 CD release. Admittedly, this would’ve made selling the singles difficult, but I digress…
Since this is a somewhat anal-retentive release, appreciated surely by the most diehard fans, I’ll expand a little on the aforementioned complicated web of alternate versions that exist at this point on the Music Complete timeline… Nine of the mixes present on Complete Music come from the original 12” deluxe set that I bought; the other two are new versions, re-worked from their deluxe set counterparts (these are subtitled here, ‘extended mix two’). To clarify, this does mean that the original extended mixes of these tracks (Nothing but a Fool and Superheated) are still exclusive to the deluxe box, however, only Superheated sounds radically different. To add further confusion, the tracks Restless and Tutti Frutti also exist in other extended variants not present here. Restless’ deluxe box-set mix is identical to the one here on Complete Music, but different to its 12” single incarnation (they are identically named) – similarly, Tutti Frutti received a new 12” mix for release as a single, though this was subtitled ‘extended mix two’ at the time. Basically, it’s all a big mess, so I’ve attached a little table of mix variants for anyone with a real interest, complete with images of each mix. It’s wonderfully OCD and you’ll love it.
Complete Music clocks in at almost an hour and a half; roughly thirty minutes longer than the original album, whose eleven-track design failed to command such a commitment. Here, the real difference is the purpose with which you approach the record – Music Complete was just a normal album; Complete Music however, is a very deliberately extended experience. It will, most likely, attract a very specific crowd, that knows better what it’s in for. To that end, I’d criticise the physical production values here and indeed, the ironic incompleteness of the selection. That said, this is a release with fullness at heart, which pays wonderful tribute to the 12” extended mixes of the 1980s. I’d go so far as to suggest forgetting about Music Complete itself – for fans of electronic music, the album or even just newcomers to the band – don’t waste your time on the conflicted textures of the original record; cut straight in here, at the definitive realisation of what is arguably new wave’s strongest ever comeback.
Check Out Oliver’s Appendix Of New Order Mixes