The cover shows a statue, lit up in multiple colours against a gradient of purple and blue. No mention of the artist or the title, except almost as a footnote on the back of the sleeve; this could only be a Peter Saville design, a New Order release, FACT 275: Technique, the fifth New Order LP, which saw them fully embrace the dance music they'd been playing with ever since renaming themselves from Joy Division, having gone to Ibiza and brought it back home with them.
Technique is easily one of New Order's strongest releases, effortlessly mixing sequenced drum machines and keyboards with guitar lines that seem to flow and weave, held together by Hooky's bass guitar, convinced it's actually playing lead. There are songs that wouldn't sound out of place in New York discos sitting next to silly, John Denver-plagiarising love songs, the best pair of closing songs in the history of recorded music, songs with nonsensical titles, and lyrics which continue to have no discernible meaning to anyone outside of the group. This album is one of the few that can be dipped into on a song-at-a-time basis, or listened to all in one go, seeming to have something to suit every occasion. Needless to say, I'm a fan.
New Order had always been decidedly 'indie', despite having a couple of breakthrough singles, but with Technique they finally hit that elusive number 1 album spot. Backed by a remarkable (for Factory) publicity campaign, entitled PressTechnique (FAC 271), they managed to leap into the limelight and sell more than a few records in the process. Technique came out on a dizzying array of formats: LP, CD, cassette and DAT (Factory's pet favourite format, which didn't do particularly well sales-wise).
- Fine Time - Slightly shorter than the 12" version, the first single and first track from the album is a full-on acid house-influenced romp, synthesised sounds crashing around from everywhere built around a near-constant pattern of beats forming the core melody (if it could be called that). In between the verses a mysterious voice speaks; this is simply Bernard speaking through a vocoder. Towards the end, sheep noises can be heard, reminiscent of the frog chorus from The Perfect Kiss. On the vinyl releases of this song, the beats are so distinctive as to make a noticeable swirl pattern. Released as a single, this reached number 11 in the UK charts. "You've got style / You've got class / But most of all, / You've got love technique"
- All The Way - A complete stylistic departure from the previous track, All The Way is an old-fashioned guitar-led rock song, given New Order's own distinctive twist, and with some wonderful synthesised strings in the breaks. Perhaps a stronger opening song than the opener itself, this song tells of the importance of being individual, and the strength it takes to be yourself. A fantastic, uplifting song. Not released as a single. "It takes years to find the nerve to be apart from what you've done"
- Love Less - Another uplifting, though slightly slower track, featuring a distinctive bass line accompanying a sparser arrangement than before. Opening cold, with coughing sounds, this gentle song seems to be a protest by the singer to someone who seems to have cut themself off, asking why when he claims to have done so much for them. The lyrics aren't so important, however; Barney could be singing about a sandwich toaster and this song would still be as good. Not released as a single. "Can't you see / Why don't you look at me / It's not your right to be / So much my enemy"
- Round & Round - The second single from the album was the subject of a bet (FAC 253) between Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton: either the single would enter the top 5, or Wilson would resign as Factory chairman. (It didn't, and he didn't, by the way.) Opening with a series of orchestra hits and continuing in much the same vein, this unashamedly dancey single is pure New Order, a fantastic high-tempo song and an obvious choice of single (FAC 263), if not quite as chartable as Wilson had hoped, reaching 21. "The picture you see / Is no portrait of me / It's too real to be shown / To someone I don't know"
- Guilty Partner - A more sombre song than the one before, its lyrics brooding and ever-so-slightly creepy as the protagonist, a lover spurned by their partner for sins real or imagined, who nonetheless is grimly positive as they know that no matter what, their 'guilty partner' will come back no matter what. Not released as a single. "You're not being cool with me / 'cause I know you'll always come back to me"
- Run - A gentle, playful love song. This song, when released as a single, raised the ire of John Denver, who claimed its long guitar outro was lifted from his song "Leaving on a Jet Plane"; as a result, the single version, entitled Run 2, was withdrawn. The song itself is another guitar-lead track along the lines of Love Less, one of the high points of the album. Due to its being removed from sale, the single stalled at 49; owners of the compilation Singles should note that the track advertised as Run 2 is, in fact, this album mix. "Anyone would think you were hard done to / What do you want me to believe?"
- Mr Disco - Another obviously dance-influenced song, mixing a distinctive bass line with wonderful synthesisers and more use of the orchestra hits. A very synthesiser/keyboard heavy track, lyrically seeming to play off the album's Ibiza influences by appearing to be an appeal from a holidaymaker to their brief lover, claiming now to be lost without them. A good song on its own, this track however pales in comparison to the pair that follow. Not released as a single. "I can't find my piece of mind / Because I need you with me all of the time"
- Vanishing Point - A simply beautiful song, opening with another thudding drum pedal before suddenly kicking into a simple, yet utterly gorgeous synthesiser line, backed with piano chords and a mysterious electronic sound that somehow, bizarrely, manages to fit perfectly. This song shouldn't work; there's far too much going on, it twists and turns, and yet the combination of all this plus a haunting, floating vocal, makes the song simply sublime. The chorus, and the coda at the end, make the entire album worth while. Then just when you think the song's over, it comes back again for one last try. Wonderful stuff. Not released as a single. "Then he gave it away / Like in 'Whistle Down The Wind' / By the look on his face / He never gave in"
- Dream Attack - To close off the album, the final track is a last, up-tempo guitar song, featuring a simple-yet-compelling melody against typically fast drums you can easily dance to. The lyrics come out softly yet with urgency as the singer requests that his partner stay, declaring to be simultaneously both independent ("I don't belong to no-one") yet yearning to be with them all the same. Lyrically it's not the strongest of songs but it works perfectly, coupled with music that simply gets better as the song continues, finally breaking out into a full-out jam towards the end with wailing guitars and everything else going for broke, too. Not released as a single. "I can't see the sense in your leaving / All I need is your love to believe in"
As with many Factory and New Order releases, a hidden message can be found on the vinyl release in the run-off matrix, one on either side:
- Side A: WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU MEAN, PETER?
- Side B: ?RETEP ,NAEM UOY OD YLTCAXE TAHW
Compiled using my own copies of the album and singles, Wikipedia, and http://www.factoryrecords.net/.