New Order – Technique

Originally released 30th January 1989. Review originally posted 29th August 2007.

Of all of the Mancunian’s albums between Movement and Republic, Technique seems to be regarded by critics and even their most rabid fans with a degree of rare noncommittal apathy, dismissed as the “Ibiza” album, the result of stepping too far in their indulgence of artisan remixers by producing a record that sounded 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 publicised 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 plush facility in the less hedonistic Bath, one listen should inevitably draw the conclusion that if Technique is to be associated with any place in the world other than Manchester, it should surely been Detroit; had Fine Time been stripped of it’s shonky blaxploitation vocal and then quietly released under a pseudonym by say, Juan Atkins or Marshall Jefferson it would immediately have been hailed as a techno classic.

Two and a half years after the at best patchy Brotherhood, Technique also probably suffers in purists eyes from being the first New Order album which violates the presupposition that the chassis of the band’s sound would remain just so throughout their career. This heresy – apparently neutering Peter Hook’s blood-axe in preference for banks of compuder generated melodics, whilst the rhythm giver fumbles around down in the mix sounding like a lost child – is in fact however what made Technique so compulsive and accessible.

Look, it’s still patently a New Order album; All The Way jumps back one, Run takes the thread back even further to Low-Life and Guilty Partner into aeons 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 if anything to the contemporary sound of The Pet Shop Boys, but Sumner’s vocals are hardly redolent of Neil Tennant’s Manilow-in-furs and this was pop far superior to the processed and plain offensive output of the era.

Considering that the Stock Aitken Waterman hell of 86-88 counted as unquestionably the lowest quality period in British pop music since the pre-glam early-70’s, trading in Hook’s bass for sequencers meant that the fractious quartet 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 a credible, vulnerable and utterly human noise, no matter how many silicon chips it took. Thompson and many other people who should’ve 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 new wave. 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 of career. They may have made better music, but never because they thought that they should sound like someone else.

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