The rift between former Joy Division and New Order bandmates Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook has been a real shame, but also pretty funny. Once responsible for some of the great pop music of the Eighties and Nineties, since their acrimonious split in 2009 they’ve been more likely to crop up in the press for trading insults (Sumner wrote in his autobiography, Chapter and Verse, that working with Hook was “unbearable by the end”; Hook went for the simpler option in an interview of calling Sumner “Twatto”).
So we can all probably guess what bassist Hook made of Sumner’s decision to release new album Music Complete without him under the New Order name – the disputed use of which has already incited legal threats – making it the band’s first entirely new record in 10 years. A statement on Hook’s website offers one clue: “Everyone knows that New Order without Peter Hook is like Queen without Freddie Mercury, U2 without The Edge, Sooty without Sweep!” We’re sensing he’s not keen.
So, is New Order without Hooky a lost cause? If the ability to conjure up the band’s trademark sound is a marker, then no: opener “Restless” has a melancholy guitar lilt that recalls 1987’s “Ceremony”, while “Nothing but a Fool” makes those minor to major key changes that feel both wistful and epic in that very New Ordery kind of way. As for innovation, there are more synths than for a while – even a full-blown techno-trance build on “Singularity” – and Iggy Pop offers a break from Sumner’s lugubrious tones by singing on “Stray Dog”.
There’s much to appreciate and admire, even if some doesn’t come off. But it’s pleasing to see a band of New Order’s stature willing to experiment with their sound, regardless of any experiments with the line-up. But wait, is that the hint of an olive branch on pacey electro closer “Superheated”? “We are so different, yet we’re the same / Things that I remember that I wish I could change,” sings guest vocalist Brandon Flowers. Perhaps, in the New Order story, there’s another chapter and verse to come.
Music Complete (Mute) is out on 25 September