Technique (Collector’s Edition)
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Reviewed by Will Harris
Why, then, did they start off with such an unabashedly uncommercial first single?
Of course, "commercial" is a very relative term, and it’s not like "Fine Time" wasn’t a massive club hit, but it’s clear that New Order was feeling a little experimental in ‘89, blending their traditional bass-heavy dance rock with the then-trendy acid house sound and so-called "Balearic beat." (The inclusion of the latter came at least partially as a result of having recorded Technique in Ibiza, an island located in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Spain, but DJ Paul Oakenfold had helped to popularize the sound in the UK as well.) But for those who were expecting another "True Faith"-styled pop song from New Order, "Fine Time" earned little more than a hearty "what the hell is this?" And you can’t blame them, really. The song kicks serious ass on the dance floor, but it’s an instrumental-heavy track that was clearly designed for the band’s club-going audience.
How ironic, then, that almost everything else on the album does leap out as a potential hit single for the masses. Though the material is polished to a finer sheen than anything in the New Order catalog up to that point, the familiar thrum of Peter Hook’s bass is never far out of reach. "Round & Round" is probably the best-known song here, given that its black-and-white video scored a fair amount of MTV airplay and that, as a single, it even made it into the lower reaches of the Top 100. There are other classics from the band’s catalog to be found here as well, however, including "Run," with its exemplary guitar work (which isn’t something you necessarily think of when considering New Order), the ominous "Guilty Partner," and "Vanishing Point," the only other track which comes close to matching the beats of "Fine Time."
Like the bonus discs for all of the reissues, however, the one for Technique is going to piss off diehard New Order fans in a big, big way, due to the horrendous sound quality and shoddy mastering; clicks, pops, and crackles can be heard throughout the various B-sides and remixes from the Technique singles. In his MySpace blog, bassist Peter Hook acknowledges the problems with the re-mastered albums. "The masters Steve (Morris) and I listened to were all basically from people's collections, so it was then left to someone in the library department to compile as much as possible from original masters. This is where it seems to have gone wrong." Hooky, you said a mouthful. Although it’s a comparatively small annoyance, it’s also a bit of a bother that neither the back of the packaging nor the accompanying CD booklet list the titles of the songs on the bonus disc. Once you actually look at the disc itself, you’ll see that the only slightly surprising inclusion is the band’s contribution to the 1990 World Cup campaign, "World in Motion," but the disappointment comes with the decision to offer a remix of the track but not the original single version. (It isn’t as if there wasn’t room; the entire disc offers only 49 minutes of content.)
Technique served as the end of an era for New Order, as the band finally took Tony Wilson’s assurance that "all our bands are free to fuck off whenever they please" to heart and departed Factory Records for the more stable pastures of Warner Brothers. Looking back, though, at least you can say they left on a high note. Technique isn’t usually called out as one of the band’s definitive recordings – that honor is generally reserved for the records that preceded Substance – but it easily holds up as well as anything else from their Factory discography.