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The Albums of Winter : **** Great Balls of Fire *** Good Vibrations ** Maybe Baby * Running on Empty

January 29, 1989|CRAIG LEE

NEW ORDER "Technique." Qwest

***

"My life ain't no holiday / I've been through the point of no return / I've seen what a man can do / I've seen all the hate of a woman too."

Hardly the kind of sentiment to inspire non-sedentary dance-floor maneuvers. But this line is from "Vanishing Point," another movement-ready bit of moodiness from New Order, the masters of manic-depressive disco, a group that defined post-punk electro-dance music with songs like "Blue Monday."

Much of "Technique" suffers from familiarity, but no other modern music "dance" band is as idiosyncratic as New Order. Sounding, at turns, like cool, technical studio wizards and an emotionally desolate garage band, the English group ranges from dance-music sampling and edits on the most innovative piece here, "Fine Time," to a guitar-mangling, punkish solo on "Run," which nods its melodic head toward crude-master Lou Reed.

Some consider New Order a rather joyless lot, but there are signs of hope and even sly humor running through "Technique": "All the Way" is an anthem-like call for personal autonomy and creativity, but its arrangement deliberately imitates the Cure's "In Between Days"--which was perceived by Anglophile music fans as a New Order steal.

But the bulk of "Technique" centers on the task of maintaining romantic relationships. In "Guilty Partner," the track that comes closest to the beautiful desperation of the band's earlier incarnation as Joy Division, singer Bernard Sumner, wounded at a lover's infidelity, uses the desperate emotional gambit of appealing to a renegade paramour's guilt. With the exception of "Fine Time," there may be little new ground broken here, but when it comes to the sound of a broken psyche, New Order never misses a beat.

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