Cool B-Sides: New Order’s “MTO” (1989)

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When London Records reissued and remastered the first five mighty New Order albums a few years back, it looked as though one of the finest musical voyages of the 1980s was finally going to be definitively presented. After all, the albums were never the whole story. You had an alternative trajectory of astonishing singles that were as, arguably more, essential than their run of LPs. Stuff like ‘Blue Monday’, ‘True Faith’ and ‘Thieves Like Us’, three of the best ever NO songs, not to mention ‘Everything’s Gone Green’, ‘Temptation’, ‘Procession’ and ‘Ceremony’. None of these were ever on a New Order LP (unless you count ‘Blue Monday’ being rudely plonked in the middle of the US version of Power, Corruption and Lies), so these new versions, complete with bonus discs, would finally tell the whole story. Except the mastering was, by almost all accounts, a disaster. I’m no audiophile, but even I could tell something was wrong, notably with the bonus discs. We’d waited AGES for the full-length version of ‘The Perfect Kiss’ to get its CD debut, but when it did arrive, it was riddled with glitches. Talk of tracks being ripped directly from vinyl as opposed to coming from the original masters. Sleeve notes riddled with inaccuracies. Plus, songs being listed on the sleeve that don’t actually appear on the CDs – in other words, the right songs, but the wrong versions.

The fan uproar was vicious enough so that the whole set were withdrawn and re-issued again. I’ve not heard these newer versions, but there are still mistakes apparently. None of this helped the quality of the bonus disc of Technique, which is easily the weakest of the five bonus discs – at this stage of their career, New Order were releasing non-album singles as an exception rather than a rule, and for the most part the B-sides were anonymous remixes and straight-up instrumental versions, so there’s a dearth of inspired material on the bonus disc. There could have been an exception, had the hypnotic ‘Run 2’ B-side ‘MTO’ been included as stated, but instead get the far inferior 12” version, despite the sleeve stating the contrary. Whoops.

Now this is a shame, because ‘MTO’ is a genuinely hidden gem in the New Order canon, a near-instrumental that takes the hilariously sleazy budoir-soul ‘you’ve got lurrvve technique’ line from ‘Fine Time’ and creates a whole new tune around it. Even though the longer 12” mix is moderately entertaining, it’s much more of a cut-n-paste job, more obviously ‘remix-y’ with all the elements jigged about and looped, and it also goes on too long, whereas the 7” mix flows beautifully and doesn’t last long enough. Seriously, the original mix is so, so much better, you wonder what on earth everybody was thinking putting the longer mix on the bonus CD. Did they really mean to put the 12” version on and made the mistake on the sleeve info, or was it the other way around? It really could be either of these two possibilities, neither or which have been rectified.

It starts off like a distant relative of Technique’s own ‘Vanishing Point’, but then we get these Kraftwerk/’Hall of Mirrors’ type synth waves, before a blissful, acid-house hook lulls us into ecstasy. It’s this hook that’s nowhere to be heard at all on the 12” mix, which is weird because it’s by far and away the best element. It goes away for a while, but then comes back with a vengeance, this time accompanied by that ‘love technique’ sample, which on ‘Fine Time’ sounded like a hilarious piss-take, but on here sounds strangely dead-on and almost quite seductive! Don’t get me wrong, this won’t be bothering a compilation of the Twenty Best Ever New Order Songs any time soon, but it has what makes a lot of B-sides great and so quintessentially B-side-ish – it’s slight, it’s throwaway, it’s one for the fans and it’s pretty much a fantastic treasure to discover on the flip of a better known hit. Now can it please be released on CD?

PS: ‘MTO’ stands for ‘Made to Order’, apparently!

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