Technique is the fifth studio album by English Alternative Dance group New Order, released in 1989. The album is an even more radical departure from New Order's signature sound compared to Brotherhood, incorporating heavy use of Balearic beat and acid house influences (inspired by the band's experiences during initial recording sessions in Ibiza) and overall bringing New Order into the Madchester dance scene full-force. Consequently, it also cemented New Order's image as an electronic band, following Brotherhood's conceptual war between the guitar and synthesizer sides of their music. Despite this, a number of guitar-driven tracks still feature on Technique, with songs like "All the Way", "Love Less", and "Run" showing that the band hadn't completely abandoned their rock roots.
Three singles were released off of Technique: "Fine Time", "Round & Round", and "Run 2". The 12" release of "Round & Round" is an extended remix of the song, while "Run 2" is a rearranged version of the album track "Run" featuring sparser production and an altered guitar part. The latter received a music video directed by photographer Robert Frank. Notably, New Order ended up in a bit of legal hot water over "Run" and "Run 2"; the publishing company of John Denver filed a lawsuit in 1991 arguing that the guitar part in the tracks were plagiarized from the Denver-penned song "Leaving on a Jet Plane". Factory promptly deleted the single after charges were filed, New Order ended up settling out of court, and later reissues of Technique and other releases containing "Run" and/or "Run 2" consequently add in a writing credit for Denver. On a more trivial note, this album was the first of New Order's to make use of the increasingly popular CD single format during promotion; while the band had previously made use of the format for "Touched by the Hand of God" and a US promotional release of "True Faith" in 1987, this marked the first time they did so to promote a proper studio album, and marked the point where they fully embraced the CD single, using it for both "Fine Time" and "Round & Round" ("Run 2" was deleted before Factory could even think about giving it a release on the format, relegating it to just the initial batch of 7" and 12" copies). That said, they still made considerable use of the 7" and 12" formats while promoting Technique, and would continue to do so in conjunction with CD single releases up to the promotional campaign for their most recent album, 2015's Music Complete (with their use of 12" singles extending even further via 2020's "Be a Rebel").
Upon release, Technique was a critical and commercial success, topping both the U.K. Albums and U.K. Independent Albums charts and peaking at No. 32 on the Billboard 200. Though not their highest-selling or most widely-acclaimed album (being bested by the compilation album Substance, their American Breakthrough Hit, from two years prior), among their proper studio discography it was, for the longest time, widely considered by fans and critics to be New Order's greatest work (before Power, Corruption & Lies ultimately overtook it in popularity). In 2012, it was ranked at No. 122 on NME's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and as of 2020 it sits at No. 435 on Acclaimed Music's dynamic list of the 3000 most critically lauded albums. It was their first regular studio album to achieve gold-selling status in the U.S. (sales of at least 500,000 copies), in addition to going gold in the U.K., Canada, and Brazil. Conversely, it's also one of New Order's least represented albums, with the band having never performed any of its songs live since the early 1990's (save for band favorite "Vanishing Point", which was briefly brought back in 2017). Together with Depeche Mode's Violator the following year, Technique represented the peak of the first wave of alternative dance, with its two biggest acts at the time seeing greater levels of public prominence, commercial success, and critical acclaim than ever before or since.
Technique was New Order's last album to be released through Factory Records, with whom the band had worked since their days as Joy Division in 1979; the record label would declare bankruptcy in 1992, following financial hardships caused by both labelmates Happy Mondays blowing all of Factory's money during the chaotic recording of Yes Please! and New Order themselves taking far too long to complete their follow-up to Technique, Republic, which was only released the year after Factory's collapse. However, Technique was not New Order's last release on the label overall— that title goes to "World in Motion", their 1990 single for the World Cup. The individual members of New Order would also continue to release material on Factory between 1989 and 1992 via various side projects, with Bernard Sumner's Electronic, Peter Hook's Revenge, and Stephen Morris & Gillian Gilbert's the Other Two all releasing singles and— in the former two groups' case— albums during this period.
- "Fine Time" (4:42)
- "All the Way" (3:22)
- "Love Less" (2:58)
- "Round & Round" (4:29)
- "Guilty Partner" (4:44)
- "Run" (4:29)
- "Mr. Disco" (4:20)
- "Vanishing Point" (5:15)
- "Dream Attack" (5:13)
- Bernard Sumner vocals, guitars, melodica, synthesizers and programming
- Peter Hook 4 and 6-stringed bass, electronic percussion, synthesizers and programming
- Stephen Morris drums, synthesizers and programming
- Gillian Gilbert synthesizers, guitars and programming
"Do you really know? 'Cause it doesn't trope":
- Album Title Drop: The phrase "you've got love technique" appears in "Fine Time"; an excerpt of this is also reused for the "Run 2" B-side "MTO".
- Anti-Love Song: The vast majority of the album is this, with the possible exceptions of "Fine Time" and "Vanishing Point". One song on the album is outright called "Love Less".
- Artistic Stimulation: The album was recorded under the influence of ecstasy, and it shows.
- Bestiality Is Depraved: One possible interpretation of "Fine Time", which features seductive lyrics seemingly addressing a girl, but ends with the distant sound of bleating sheep.
- Brief Accent Imitation: Bernard Sumner's pronunciation of "Ibiza" on "Mr. Disco" matches how the island's name is actually pronounced in the European Spanish accent and dialect, right down to the lisp on the "z."
- Call-Back: "Fine Time" reprises the bleating sheep sample that closes out the 12" version of "The Perfect Kiss".
- Broken Record: A sampled, processed recording of a voice uttering "the past doesn't matter" is repeated for quite a long time during the middle of "Fine Time".
- Changed for the Video: The video for "Round & Round" uses a different mix than the album version.
- Color Motif: Purple, brown, and white.
- Deliberately Monochrome: The video for "Round & Round" intercuts black-and-white footage of models with color flash frames of things like flowers, marbles and milk being spilled.
- Design Student's Orgasm: One of the few Peter Saville album covers that qualifies for this trope, owing to its downright lavish use of color.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Mr. Disco", a song that takes considerable influence from disco music; the influences aren't immediately noticeable (especially if one primarily knows the flute and string-heavy brand of disco that most readily defines the genre), but are difficult to ignore once they are spotted. In particular, the synthesizer "pew pew" noises between the first chorus and second verse were very much commonplace in the more electronic-driven, Giorgio Moroder-influenced sound of late-era disco.
- Gratuitous Panning:
- Just after the vocals kick in on "Fine Time", a series of sampled moans repeatedly fire at machine-gun rate, rapidly alternating between the left and right channels.
- The instrumental bridge in "Mr. Disco" features chorus hits in the left channel and orchestra hits in the right channel. The synth hits just before and throughout the final chorus and outro also jump between the left and right audio channels.
- Idiosyncratic Cover Art: The statue motif on the album cover is also carried into the artwork for the single "Round & Round", which features a similar negative-color photo of an adult male statue against a red background on 7" releases and a blue one on 12" releases.
- In the Style of...: Bernard Sumner's pitch-altered lyrics on "Fine Time" are an obvious pastiche of Barry White's vocal style.
- Line-of-Sight Name: According to Stephen Morris, the title of "Fine Time" came from a note he wrote to himself after his car got towed, forcing him to have to pay a fine later in order to get it back.
- Love Martyr: "Guilty Partner" seems to be about a guy with a very abusive and manipulative girlfriend, who he keeps breaking up with but can't manage to leave for good and keeps coming back to.
- Lyrical Dissonance: The usual at this point, with the broad majority of the songs being much more upbeat than their lyrics would imply. "Love Less" is a particularly noticeable example, featuring an instrumental part that sounds like it came from a standard love song and lyrics that tell exactly the opposite.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: A color-inverted photograph of a cherub statue against a pink and purple gradient background; the inner LP sleeve and CD insert feature palette swaps of the photograph.
- New Sound Album: Madchester with acid house and Balearic beat influences; consequently, the band's sound is much denser than on previous albums and features increased focus on rhythm. The album also makes much greater use of digital samplers than before, most notably with the heavy use of the Emulator II on "Fine Time".
- Non-Appearing Title: As per the norm with New Order, none of the song titles appear in any of the song lyrics.
- Non-Indicative Name: "Mr. Disco" is not a One-Man Song, nor is the narrator called "Mr. Disco."
- One-Word Title: Technique, "Run".
- Out-of-Genre Experience: Even by the standards of what is very much a huge New Sound Album for New Order, "Fine Time" is far different than anything else the band ever put out before or since, being an outright acid house track.
- Perfectly Cromulent Word: "All the Way" features the line "parasites and literasites, they'd burn me if they can," with "literasites" being a completely nonexistent word simply made up to provide a rhyme. Notably, this caused a bit of confusion among listeners who believed that "literasites" was an actual word they had never heard of.
- Rearrange the Song:
- "Run" was released as a single in the form of "Run 2", a more radio-friendly arrangement produced by R.E.M. collaborator Scott Litt.
- New Order created an instrumental remix of "Vanishing Point" as the title theme for the 1989-1991 TV series Making Out, for which they also composed the soundtrack.
- Shout-Out: The cover art for "Run 2" was inspired by the packaging of Bold laundry detergent of all things, with the brand credited for such on the back cover.
- Spoken Word in Music:
- The majority of the vocal part on "Fine Time" consists of Bernard Sumner reciting a series of pickup lines to an unspecified target, pitched down to mimic Barry White.
- "Mr. Disco" ends with Sumner whispering "Ibiza, Majorca, and Benidorm too, I searched all these places, but never found you," tying in with the song's lyrical content detailing a one-night stand that the narrator now longs for as a committed partner.
- Stop and Go: The music in "Fine Time" cuts out just after Bernard says "but most of all," then cuts back in after "you've got love technique."
- Surreal Music Video: "Fine Time", which is most easily describable as a mix of avant-garde art cinema, a CGI tech demo, and a little boy's Christmastime nightmare.
- Take That!: "Round & Round" is one to Factory Records head Tony Wilson; tensions between Wilson and New Order had been developing for a number of years prior to the song's composition. The band would continue levying jabs against Wilson on their next album, Republic, which ultimately released after Factory went bust.
- Textless Album Cover: As is to be expected when you have Peter Saville design your album art.
- Video Inside, Film Outside: Invoked in the video for "Run 2", in which director Robert Frank intentionally contrasts videotaped footage of New Order in concert with 35mm footage of a bereaved old man (played by acclaimed English actor David Warrilow) and a child performer in the streets of New York City. This was around when the trope was approaching forgotten territory outside of intentional invocations of it, thanks to the rise of professional camcorders making it far cheaper to shoot on videotape both in-studio and on-location.
- Whole Plot Reference: "Vanishing Point" is one to Whistle Down the Wind, to the point where the song namedrops the film in its outro.