Stray Dog < Academic > Nothing But A Fool

Academic is second only to Ceremony as New Order’s finest guitar-driven song of all time. It is completely and utterly wonderful, and rounds out a quartet of songs on Music Complete that are faultless and peerless. And there it sits – like Plastic (and so many of New Order’s finest moments) – pure in its original form; unfettered by its non-issue as a single.

My first run-through of Music Complete was a revelation of pure joy. At this point seven tracks into the album and in my estimation nothing had yet to drop below bloody amazing, and four of which were as good as you can get! All of the heartache I’d been feeling at the festering toxicity overshadowing my favourite band over the preceding 5-10 years disappeared in an instant, and I’m sure many of you felt the same (feel free to share below). I have some correspondence from Andy Robinson (band management along with Rebecca Boulton) dated 21 May 2015 where he shared with me that the album was “finished, sounding great and we are mastering it today!” Even at that point I was (to my shame) a bit “…sure mate…“, but how incredibly wrong I was shortly (and happily) to be proven.

What makes a great New Order song? Can the qualities be distilled – KLF-style – into a cheap checklist for success and emulation? No, because the diversity in their best tracks is simply remarkable, and furthermore theirs has been a singularly unique, tragic / triumphant, and mad journey of places, people and situations that has influenced their art. It’s a once-only timeline never to be repeated, yet always to be celebrated through their body of work.

Academic is special in its own way; perfect in its guitar melodies & riffs, lyrics & vocal performance, and most importantly richness & depth in its self-production. Contrast Academic with the primarily-guitar driven tracks across Get Ready & ‘Sirens’ Call and it doesn’t take much to realise that it is a vastly superior work. Highlights for me are in the driving percussion and bassline, the gorgeous harmonies in the vocals, and the many additional flourishes held back until the extended outro; a quality that you find with quite a few tracks on this album – like a reserve of riches being shared out.

I’m pretty fond of the Extended Mix as well, isolating as it does a more electronic core around the synth-bass and strings. Complete Music is such a great companion release because it offers extended versions of the truest kind; reinterpretations by the band, most of whom are highly accomplished producers in their own right – so who better to cast different light and shade on the original works? The whole campaign around Music Complete was handled beautifully, and I can’t think of a single thing Mute and the band could have done differently or better.

Finally we have Mark Reeder’s supreme Akademix from the Music Complete Remix EP*; which itself was an unexpected treat when it came out on digital platforms in 2017. A fantastic mix: delivering a dark-disco core sequence, with flares of guitar feedback and the main guitar riff coming in and out of the reverb, a full set of vocals (rather than being picked-at, which is so common from other remixers), added depth in the synth layers (particularly around ~4:05), and a classic DJ-friendly extended subtractive outro. I have a lot of time for Reeder’s productions and his inside involvements, so I regret not taking the opportunity to tell him so in 2014 when he was in the country for the band’s Sydney Opera House residency. I’ll do it now (because I know he’s following this blog): thanks Mark 🙂

When New Order finally hang up their boots to permanently embrace the easy life, may they meander in their sailing ships and careen about the countryside in their armoured personnel carriers until they drop, because frankly they’ve earned it giving us so much incredible music like this to soundtrack our lives.

* …and shorter Academixxx edit from the Electronic Sound magazine 7″ freebie

Rating: xxxxx

Available on: Music Complete
Extended Mix available on: Complete Music

9 thoughts on “Academic

  1. Yep. Definitely a 5 star affair this one. It didn’t instantly grab me but was a slow burner but is truest outstanding. I can’t add anything which you haven’t already mentioned Dennis. A great write up. The extended mix brings the bass sequencer higher in the mix. The guitar outro by Phil is superb and there’s some deft bass touches by Tom. A worthy inclusion to new orders live set too.

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  2. If the running order had been slightly different and Academic came before Stray Dog … it would have been the five best consecutive songs on any of their albums, what a humdinger of a song, although to be fair there are quite a few humdingers on Music Complete, this is up there with the other four songs before Stray Dog.

    Another killer chorus (there are SO many on this album), and lyrics of outstanding natural beauty like this one: –

    ‘I was aware that danger lay ahead
    And I couldn’t bare this stranger in my head
    Have you got a face (have you got a face), have you got a soul
    Well, he ain’t got nothing, not even a hole’

    Other highlights for me are the instrumental break at 3:20 and agreeing with Al, Phil’s outro is just class. Another 5 out of 5

    After the troubles the band suffered after WFTSC, I agree with you Dennis ‘bloody amazing’ sounds just about right. I hope and pray that they will release at least one more album, they are quite simply one of the best bands the UK have ever produced.

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  3. amazing is right. 5 stars + is right. I love the Reeder version for exactly the reasons you have cited. another great thing about this song: the lyrics are really well written, beginning to end, biting and angry, WITHOUT A SINGLE WONKY LINE in the whole thing!

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  4. Thank you Dennis for your kind words. I’m very happy to hear you like my work. Maybe you would also like to know that I released my Akademix and Akademixx physically on my MAUERSTADT album. It contains both my remix versions of Academic and also my remixes of The Game, on 2xvinyl and cd (

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Another great song. Not quite in the ‘Turn’ league for me (where the Hooky bass sends it into the supernova), but a multilayered delight nevertheless. It’s brilliant that we’ve got it in essentially two equally stellar parallel forms, the more rocky album/extended versions and the electronic Reeder remixes.

    Picking up on the above, my only real issue with MC is the running order of the second ‘side’, which might have been better with a little track re-arrangement (and there is one song I think might have been cut altogether). As it is, it is a little stop-start over the more flowing first ‘side’ until SD. But it still has surprises even listening to it now. It will be difficult to follow up, should NO ever do so (please!)

    I’d thoroughly recommend Mark Reeder’s Mauerstadt as well as the earlier Collaborator, which as people on here may know, has the Corvin Dalek version of Crystal and several great electronic versions of Bad Lieutenant songs that make me think there was a decent NO album that might have emerged from the, at best ‘uneven’, Never Cry Another Tear.

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  6. The only thing that disappoints me about this song is…. They’ve not played it at any of the gigs I’ve been to since MC’s release! It has all the core ingredients I love of New Order tracks and, as has already pointed out, not lost it’s soul in the production. Mark Reeder’s Academixxx edit  is excellent and definitely my favourite mix. Could be the better looking brother of Bad Lieutenant’s Twist of Fate… Anyone see (hear) the family resemblance?

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  7. Count me in as another person who absolutely loves this track.
    Great to hear them do a guitar number in a ‘true’ New Order way (a la Broken Promise, As It Is When It Was etc.).

    5/5 easily. Brilliant.

    Mr Reeder, if you’re still reading this thread, can I just tell you how much I loved ‘B Movie: Lust & Sound In West Berlin’.
    Must have been incredible to live through those times.
    A wonderfully entertaining and fascinating movie.
    I highly recommend that anyone interested in underground music in the 1980s watch it.
    Keep meaning to buy the book too.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “Academic is second only to Ceremony as New Order’s finest guitar-driven song of all time”. Better than Leave Me Alone, Love Vig, Run, All The Way, Regret, WFTSC, Crystal?
    That’s a bold statement!

    Prior to MC’s release, one of the teaser clips was Academic’s distinctive jangly/chimey guitar; a sound that immediately made me want to hear more. Bernard’s love for The Byrds seeming to burst forth here.
    When I finally heard the song, I was initially disappointed. It wasn’t as Byrds-y or as uplifting as I had hoped. But after a few listens, the song as a whole grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I now like it almost as much as I had hoped!

    The closing stages have a certain adult rock vibe that suggests an older, less lean band than the one that recorded Ceremony, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Nontheless, if I were compiling a “tape” of essential NO guitar tracks, this would be on it. A four star track for me. But I don’t think it’s as good as the tunes I listed above.

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