Since back in the early ’80s when the band rose from the ashes of Joy Division, New Order has continuously made slick pop songs that occasionally border on genius, but have recently failed to be more than anything but a novelty. Sure, the band had critical and commercial success with such albums as Power, Lies, & Corruption and Technique but since their initial breakup following 1993′s Republic, New Order has been coasting on the success of the old days rather than bringing anything new to the table. What makes their latest release, Lost Sirens, even more of a travesty is their sheer willingness to present leftovers from 2005′s subpar Waiting for the Siren’s Call as a crass commercial excuse for their latest nostalgia tour.
New Order calls this their last album to feature bassist Peter Hook, who smartly has gone on to greener pastures, and it’s worth noting that anything sounding like Hook’s bass has been placed far in the back of the mix. Whether this is by design as a proverbial middle finger to Hook or due to incompetence on the part of one of the seven credited producers is unknown. But, it takes away much of the tension from the band’s music and makes the record feel sterile. That’s not good for a thirty-year old band hoping for some new fans.
All is not lost, though. The opener, “I’ll Stay With You” features a solid chorus and production that actually makes the song sound like a product the 21st century. Singer and guitarist Bernard Sumner continues to write songs that lack complex lyrical content, but here he sounds engaged, adding a semblance of youthful vigor to the proceedings. Then there’s “Hellbent,” a song previously released on the Joy Division and New Order compilation Total. Here, it adds an element of danger to Lost Sirens, breathing life into an album that, quite frankly, feels tepid and shallow.
That shallowness comes through in tracks like “Sugarcane” and “Recoil.” With a beat and production that sounds straight out of a Duran Duran outtake circa 1986, “Sugarcane” is New Order at its worst. There’s a reason why this track was left off of the previous record; it’s repetitive, dated, and contains some of the worst lyrics of Sumner’s career. Meanwhile, “Recoil” slows things down with a bossa nova beat and a bit of acoustic guitar that is filtered through dated production better suited for a third-tier George Michael single.
There’s nothing wrong with being a nostalgia act. Several great bands have become that exact thing, with the Rolling Stones showing the kids how it’s done for almost two decades. But, there is something off about trying to take advantage of fans by releasing a mini-album of half-baked leftovers. New Order may have earned the right to cruise through the hits during their latest tour, but to trick fans into purchasing eight stale tunes on a so-called “mini-album” is just wrong. If you’re looking for your New Order fix, try picking up some of their older records. Lost Sirens is for completists only.