It’s official. You’re fantastic.
Copped some flak there for only rating Singularity a micron under 5 stars, but for me Plastic reigns superior. Allow me to explain myself (as if I need to… it’s my blog… so there).
New Order produced it. By themselves. No Chemical Brothers. No Stuart Price. No Stephen Street. No John Leckie. No Jim Spencer. No Steve Osborne. No Flood. No Steven Hague. No Arthur Baker. None of ’em. Collaborations are nice, but – save for only a small number of exceptions – each and every 5-star track I’ve reviewed has been self-produced by the band, and rightly so because quite frankly they are the pioneers. Plastic is not a track needing a helpful hand by some upstart to give it kudos with the masses and cachet with the critics; it is first-class wondrously-realised dance music delivered straight to you by Sumner, Morris, Gilbert, Cunningham and Chapman; no assistance necessary.
You’re so special; so iconic.
It was very specifically Plastic which made me realise that New Order was back, but not back in the sense of a recurring fever, but back in the sense of a restoration of primacy. It is such a fantastic electronic dance track, drenched as it is in the DNA of Blue Monday, Bizarre Love Triangle, Round & Round, and Vanishing Point. Laser-sharp, super-clear, bass-heavy, perfectly-padded, and synth-rich, with an instrumental breakdown and re-build that has the sequences detuning and tumbling over each other in a way that just blows my mind, and reminds me that nobody comes even remotely close to New Order when they are firing on all cylinders. This is easily in my top-10 tracks of all time from my favourite band.
You’re the focus of attention.
I just love the wry take on celebrity worship that Bernard shares on Plastic, and how it all gets unexpectedly turned around in the outro; with some harsh truths about artificial/superficial-ity. He really is on a lecture tour across the recent albums isn’t he! Sumner nails his vocal performance but it’s made sublime with Dawn Zee (et al) on backing vocals, providing those perfect emphases on “special”, “iconic”, “focus“, “you don’t want it” and “attention“. She and Denise Johnson are superb backing vocalists for Bernard.
Feels like thunder.
Should have been a single? Yes and no. Certainly it seems such an obvious choice for being singled out, remixed, edited etc, but when I think about it there’s a certain purity in Plastic remaining an album-only track; supported only by an equally terrific Extended Version (one of the best on Complete Music). Like Vanishing Point on Technique it’s perfect just the way it is and can’t be bettered, so why try harder. Furthermore it illustrates just how strong Music Complete is: that Mute was spoilt for choice and a track like Plastic wasn’t required as a single. Amazing really, and very Factory-like in its perversity.
The Extended Mix is a joy. Restructured and stretched in all the right places, and emphasising those Moroder-esque sequences to remind us where the band’s earliest disco influences lay whilst stamping their own signature darker-EBM and alternative flavours all over it. I love how the original’s outro vocals are brought forward midway into the track to signpost – after much vocoded intoxication – a revised extended instrumental closing. Just when the original version cuts into its panning ambience, the extended version decides to go around the block a few more times.
What a brilliant album this is. What a brilliant band they are.