Mr Disco

MTO < Mr Disco > Vanishing Point

So many wonderful New Order album tracks over the years never surfaced as singles; superior though they may have been to some of the actual single choices at the time, or indeed where no single was issued from the album. Off the top of my head… Dreams Never End, Age Of Consent, Vanishing Point, Morning Night & Day, and many more. Mr Disco is another one: platinum leftfield electronic pop, full of cool riffs & melodies, seamless production, and thumpingly good beats and bass. Being so spoiled for choice is a measure of the band’s (and indeed Technique’s) greatness.

Mr Disco brings the groove on the album’s side-B trilogy of bliss, and there’s little left in the tank at the end. It’s a textbook example of top drawer late-’80s New Order electronica: wistful verse and punchy chorus vocals, over rolling layers of synth & rock bass, lush synths, bells & strings, plus superlative drum programming (i.e unlike most house/acid at the time, which was necessarily simplistic and repetitious).

I’m in awe when Morris & Co cut loose with some truly joyous programming, and Mr Disco is a 124bpm case-in-point: full of house sounds, and – with a careless but wonderful disregard for shame – rimshots, handclaps, syndrums, timpani and cowbell. The name says it all: the track’s mainline is a muscular update on disco; which under normal circumstances – and in the hands of lesser mortals – would end up as retro as a cheese fondue, but unlike disco the track is interspersed with intricate drum breaks and multi-layered bridging sequences. Example 1: the first instrumental break between 1:11 and 1:42, full of orchestra strikes and syndrum bleeps. Example 2: the peerless break between 2:37 and 3:27 which includes an exuberant switch from timpani to cowbell, plus that emphatic snare pattern rebuilding the song back to a full chorus. Also worth mentioning is the synth/slap-bass sequencing, tonally emphasised by Hooky (admittedly in the background, but in this case appropriately-so), which provides a great punchy bottom end. Finally I want to acknowledge New Order’s attention to detail, because its the sonic nuances and textures in Mr Disco that make this gem of a track sparkle like it does; the reverb/delay and phasing on particular drum shots, the stereo positioning, the subtle synth pads just there in the background giving depth and atmosphere, the selective fade-in and dissipation of chattering sequencer riffs, and lastly – again – a terrific and thoughtful ending; in this case Bernard whispering a final reprise before the track smashes to a halt – like a Tron light-cycle into a wall, splintering into a million shards of digital glass.

Bernard’s in great form: ‘I tried but I cannot find you, tell me now what do I do‘, ‘Our rendezvous just ended in sorrow; without you there’s no tomorrow‘ and ‘I can’t find my peace of mind because I need you with me all of the time‘. Regret, yearning, hope and angst in equal amounts – just like my 19 year-old self. In fact, now that I think about it, the subtle shifts over time in Bernard’s missives have, by and large, felt contextually right: abstraction & impressionism early-on, to the trials & tribulations of relationships and our place in the world, to ruminations on the self and what life should really be about; all suitably interspersed with less complex matters such as football, getting hammered, and dancing ’til you drop. It’s a real-life arc of vision which we can appreciate only because of the longevity and – even after 37 years – quality of the band and its music. And I’m sure they still have much to say… so bring it on.

Mr Disco. One of New Order’s great album tracks.

Rating: xxxxx

P.S I wonder who in the band (or their inner circle) is the actual Mr Disco? Thoughts via feedback please…

Available on: Technique

12 thoughts on “Mr Disco

  1. I truly truly enjoyed reading this, Dennis. Thank you.

    I think Mr. Disco is Bernard himself, and the song is about him trying to find his ‘HAPPY’ self…and never succeeding.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great review as always, Another killer track and a firm favourite. I always found it a bit odd that towards the end of the song it has the same bass riff as State of the Nation. Anyone else noticed that? I’m sure you have.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Was just about to mention the State Of The Nation bassline-thing.
    I guess if you can’t rip yourself off, who can you rip off? 🙂

    Another really great review, Dennis.

    I absolutely LOVE this track. There’s just so much going on. It’s mesmerising at times.

    I think this track and the two that follow make up a holy trinity of songs that can’t be beaten.
    I can’t think of any three consecutive tracks on ANY album, by ANY band, that are as perfect as these three.

    I adore the whole ‘lost holiday love’ theme. Seems a trivial thing to sing about, but as someone who’s experienced something similar (haven’t we all?), it really gets me all wistful and nostalgic. And you know what they say about nostalgia – it ain’t what it used to be…

    Weirdly, for a long time I couldn’t make out what Barney was whispering at the end for a few years. It wasn’t until I heard a live version that I could make out that it was all the classic Spanish holiday resorts that us Brits went to in droves during the 80s. Not sure why I couldn’t hear it before.

    The other thing to note about this closing refrain, is that he does something similar in Vanishing Point, with the ‘Whistle Down The Wind’ line.
    Always wondered if it was coincidence or something planned.

    I look forward to your VP and Dream Attack reviews greatly.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a wonderful breakdown of a great song, Mr Disco is just a feast for your ears, Dennis you mentioned the instrumental breaks, I cannot think of another band who put so much effort into these and there are so many classic ones to choose fro from New Order’s catalogue.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A friend who was just discovering Neworder asked me to do him a playlist of stuff he wouldn’t have heard (no BM, TF, BLT etc) so I kicked off with the Holy Trinity of Mr Disco, Vanishing Point & Dream Attack – I liked the list so much, I did myself a CD of it for the car, where it remains to this day. Bliss.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. unfortunately, i can’t share the same opinion as anyone here. this song points out almost everything that was wrong with the band, and this album.

    when you run out of steam and ideas, you resort to blandness. and thats why this whole album, and all the tracks appear that way.

    none of them stand out, and none of them are memorable to me. they all just blend into one big track that isn’t any different than the other ones., they lyrics go nowhere, and mean nothing, and are so soft spoken they appear to fall asleep,

    there’s a reason why those songs aren’t singles, and they are not ever played live or remembered, unless you have a link to the songs, i certainly didn’t although i had the misfortune of seeing them in the US on the technique tour.

    i kept wondering what happened to the band from the low-life, heck the brotherhood days even, and they were nowhere to be found.

    later
    -1

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such a personal thing, taste & preference; particularly with music. With such a long history, a powerful previous incarnation, offshoots and projects, New Order’s fans are so often ‘split’. I have a mate who seriously feels that the band went downhill after Movement. Others that can only stomach the pure dance tracks like BLT, BM, etc. Yet others who feel that any time that the band went near a keyboard they sold their soul to the devil. Some say that the band were cooler when they were cold.

      Are NO still NO post-Hooky? Were they when Gillian had to step away for family and Phil joined? Are post-Factory NO releases as ‘authentic’ as before? These are all tangents of debate that have come and gone – particularly on the NOOL forums.

      My view is that music is often so personal that people can find themselves bound to particular songs at a particular time and nothing else comes close. For me NO are a band that have constantly evolved, and to-date they have (remarkably) peaked 3 times: PC&L, Technique, and again with Music Complete. They’re never boring, never predictable, and never fixed.

      Like

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