Total is totally the quintessential Joy Division/New Order compilation. Of course when I got it, I skipped right to the unreleased New Order track, “Hellbent,” which almost doesn’t even sound like New Order, but in a way that’s interesting and refreshing. It has a rockier groove than their classic hits, opening with an unusual move for New Order…a guitar solo. “Bizarre Love Triangle” it ain’t. On the other hand, the signature synths and beats are still there, and it holds up nicely amidst some of their later material (“Crystal” comes to mind).
It’s all here for the taking, in chronological order, which makes it interesting as a listener. For every “greatest hits” each of these bands has released, this is the one that sums it up in a way that truly shows each band’s development. The album opens with the Joy Division classic, “Transmission,” which has become such a quintessential example of the Manchester post-punk sound, that I’ve even heard a steel drum band cover.
New Order eventually evolved into a complete departure from the bleak, cold, minimal sounds of Joy Division. However, when listening to this album in order (no shuffle mode on this one, kids!), one starts to see their evolution in a way that is innovative and unique. By far, the most interesting point in this chronology is the exact middle, “Ceremony,” which is one of the last songs written with Ian Curtis. It’s Bernard singing, but it almost sounds like Ian…almost.
Moving on, we eventually get to “Blue Monday,” New Order’s first big single, which was truly revolutionary for its time and is still on the top playlists of every 80’s/synthpop DJ out there. Anyone who underestimates the commercial success of New Order in the 80’s should listen to this compilation immediately; it showcases the band perfectly. It fares well as a Joy Division primer too, covering all their hits up to the haunting “Atmosphere.” As redundant as it may seem for die-hard fans, it’s still a welcome addition to the discography.