At least Sumner is losing sleep over the big stuff these days. "I don't wanna be/What other people are/Don't wanna own a key/Don't wanna wash my car," he whines opposite Billy Corgan on "Turn My Way." Thankfully, the song features the only cameo from little Baldy: It's short, sweet, and as self-indulgent as anything that Morrissey might pull out of his snuff box. A few other tunes recycle the best New Order riffs you've come to know and love ("Crystal," "Sixty Miles an Hour"), giving fans of danceable gloom and mild irony a reason to give a shit, if not stick to the speed limit.
Much heralded on their own shores recently for compiling a missing masterwork and/or launching a comeback, the members of New Order don't turn one speck of übersoil here -- unless it's to rob the graves of their own past. But who can really blame them? As the likeliest source behind a glut of bad '80s-era imitators (Thrashing Doves, anyone?), Sumner and chums can hold their heads high after tickling pleasure centers the world over and giving the Cure a run for its money. Peter Hook's bass lines still irrigate to the lowest chakra, and there's piston precision and machine-like tribal clamor to that electrodance beat. Sometimes it's enough to tug on your heartstrings with 4/4 fury.
Glamlessly middle-aged, Manchester's doom merchants have nonetheless managed to recruit two guys from Primal Scream for a ditzy whoop-along called "Rock the Shack," a cautionary tale about magic potions and fatted calves. In a complete about-face compared to Joy Division's Nazi-baiting days (remember those prison-camp haircuts?), Sumner saves the grislier moments of being a rock fossil for the album's final curtain, "Run Wild," singing, "If Jesus comes to take your hand/I won't let go." Promising "good times around the corner," he sounds like a guy who expects to take a few more blazing spins on the Catherine Wheel. Then comes the kicker: "I'm gonna live till I die/I'm gonna live to get high," he croons without any irony or sadness. It sort of leaves Utopia right where it was in 1993, as undiscovered as El Dorado or Shangri-la but with shuffleboard and Mylanta available 24/7.