Imagine being part of a highly important band that combines post-punk and dance music. You’re the one behind club hits such as “Blue Monday,” “Bizzare Love Triangle,” “The Perfect Kiss” and “True Faith,” but can you keep this up forever? Can you repeat this after doing it in the past three albums?
This was a question for New Order. By the late 1980s, they had outgrown their days as Joy Division and created a unique sound in records such as “Power, Corruption & Lies” and “Low-Life.” But it wasn’t going to remain like this forever. Already, they were suffering from financial troubles for co-owning the infamous Hacienda nightclub with their record label, Factory, and there was a bit of division over how the band was going to take their music.
According to lead singer Bernard Sumner, “We were in this position of being known for this dance-electronic sound and it would have been daft to have just stopped doing it.” However, bass player Peter Hook wanted New Order to retain their rock sound and jokingly described the process of making “Technique” as “an epic power struggle between the sequencers and me.”
It wasn’t hard to understand this struggle, especially as the times were changing in the late 1980s. In Britain, there was the rise of acid house music, particularly in their hometown of Manchester. Younger bands such as Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses emerged. Their contemporaries were heading in different directions. The Smiths split up in 1987, Echo & the Bunnymen would see the departure of lead singer, Ian McCulloch, and Depeche Mode would move towards a more darker sound before achieving worldwide success in the 1990s.
So for New Order, a change was in the air. They decided to make the album in the island of Ibiza under Hook’s insistence. At Ibiza, the band was immersed in the local Balearic club music. This fascination saw the band slowly worked on the album and returned to Britain where the album was finished. But their experiences had greatly influenced the making of “Technique.”
The opening track “Fine Time” made it clear New Order has brought in a fresh sound to them. “Fine Time” retained the danceability of their old sound but with a big dose of ecstasy. The bopping synths and low-pitched sample voice gave new life to the band. This is continued in tracks such as “Mr. Disco” and “Vanishing Point.”
Even with those upbeat dance tracks, the simple rock tracks are here as well in tracks such as “Dream Attack” and “Run.” While they are more introspective in comparison, they provide a good balance that shows the diversity that New Order brought this time around.
You can argue that this was probably the band’s best album to date. They created a cohesive album experience that provided diversity that never got boring. The production was very unique in that it retained some of the quirks of its time period but also tried to bring something new, and they managed to do this while facing creative stagnation.
It’s these kinds of stories where a person (or in this case, a group of people) are entering at a crossroads of whether they will suffer creative burnout or bring something new that can add a layer of creativity and versatility to their art. “Technique” 30 years later remains an important moment that allowed a highly influential band to make their legacy even better.
Listen to “Technique” on Spotify.