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Songs We Love: New Order, 'Plastic'

New Order 2015 (photo: Nick Wilson)
Nick Wilson
Courtesy of the artist
New Order 2015 (photo: Nick Wilson)

New Order, <em>Music Complete</em> (Mute)
/ courtesy of the label
courtesy of the label
New Order, Music Complete (Mute)

At this point, the history of New Order is mythic. Like something Ovidian or divined by celestial heat, it is a creation story that begins in total darkness: "the dim rubble that was Joy Division fell, cleared, and gave way to a new earth— a New Order." The group's triumph today, 35 years since its original formation, is due only in part to its initial phoenix-from-the-ash story; it is just as informed by the changes that have taken place since its reunion in 2001.

Handsomely crafted, freshly configured and at least a little oily, "Plastic," off the Manchester band's cockily and righteously titled tenth studio album, Music Complete, is one of its most New Order-y songs since 1993's Republic. This too is a feat, since Music is the first album of new tracks (not outtakes) without the signature sound of co-founder Peter Hook's bass (he departed sourly in 2007) — though it does mark the return of original keyboardist Gillian Gilbert after a 14-year hiatus.

As with all of New Order's finest, the song is fatless and crystalline — no cloudy chord changes, no Trojan-Horse song structures — just clean, modulated Newness. It comes in silky layers: (1) the latest in rhythm-technology textures, (2) a beat as sparkling and carbonated as something produced by Giorgio Moroder for Donna Summer, and (3) synths that crest and fall like sine waves. As ever, vocalist Bernard Sumner's speak-singing is the gleaming glass topcoat, sealing the track with a serene little lyrical jab in it's coda: "You're like plastic, you're artificial........!"

The machinations of "Plastic" tell us that New Order understands the degree to which a band — an order — can remain locked in time. The myth persists. Reincarnated again and again, they remain just what they've always claimed to be — immortally, eternally, New.

Music Complete is out now on Mute.

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