Album Review:New Order’s Retro

I’m not sure if there is any other rock group that has had any many compilations as New Order. The ultimate New Order compilation is still probably the two-disc Substance, released in 1987, despite the fact that New Order has since put out multiple albums and songs since then. The ultimate New Order compilation since then has to be their boxed set Retro.

Retro is a four disc set (a bonus fifth disc was available on a limited number of editions) that is separated into four groupings: Pop, Fan, Club, Live. Pop and Fan basically cover the same source material, which is the original recordings found on albums or 12 inch singles. Club differs by offering some remixes of fan favorites and the Live disc speaks for itself.

Every New Order fan will find something to quibble about, of course, and I’m no exception. My main quibble concerns the Fan disc. Here’s the thing about New Order. They love to issue remixes. Even back when they were making 12 inch singles with only a song or two on each side, they would often present two or three different version of the same song. But with the unfortunately and untimely demise of the 12 inch single and the subsequent rise of the maxi-single CD New Order now has as many as five or six or more remixes of the same song.

When you consider they’ve been making music since 1980, that’s a lot of remixes to choose from. While I was thoroughly delighted by the inclusion of a remix of “Paradise” because I’d never heard it before, I am less than thrilled at the inclusion of some of the others. Everything’s Gone Green isn’t even a remix and there a couple of other “Regret” remixes that would have been better than the one on the disc. In addition, the “Confusion” remix really adds nothing to that song, which isn’t among the better New Order efforts to begin with. One of the incredible remixes of “Round and Round” would have been a much better choice.

The song selection for Fan and Club fare better. For one thing, for the first time we get the original 12 inch single version of “Temptation” for the first time on CD. The only other version was the remixed and updated version on Substance which, while terrific in its own right, still isn’t the original. I also like they added “Procession” which many New Order fans don’t even know exists. I’m also glad they chose “Brutal” which has only appeared elsewhere on the soundtrack for The Beach as far I know. I personally would have jettisoned “In a Lonely Place” in exchange for say, “Murder” and I think too many cuts from Get Ready made it onto the compilation considering how few from Republic-a far superior album – made it.

Of course, a boxed set wouldn’t be complete nowadays without some sort of booklet and Retro offers a nice one. It’s packed with some terrific photos of the band, but more importantly it also comes with some interesting snippets of interviews with the band as they comment on the songs that were chosen for inclusion.

All in all Retro is a pretty solid compilation. It is more expansive the Best of New Order even if it doesn’t offer quite the solid overview of Substance.

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