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MonacoFormer New Order bassist Peter Hook has a pretty big set of brass balls. When the band decided to take a break after 1993’s Republic, various members did their own thing — singer Bernard Sumner continued his Electronic project with Johnny Marr, drummer Stephen Morris and keyboardist Gillian Gilbert experimented with more synthpop as the Other Two, and Hook … well, Hook just decided to keep New Order going with Monaco. If he couldn’t use the New Order name, he certainly could use the sound.

Hook’s distinctive high-note bass technique was joined by vocalist David Potts, who seemed to be selected purely for his ability to ape Bernard Sumner’s vocals with Rich Little precision (but accurately, unlike Rich Little — sorry, I couldn’t name another famous impressionist). Just take a listen to Monaco’s modern rock hit, “What Do You Want From Me?” (download) — if there wasn’t an MP3 tag on there identifying it otherwise, you’d swear it was New Order.

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The cloning process continued on Music for Pleasure‘s second single, “Shine” (download), which improbably manages to be even more New Order-ish than New Order. It’s like Hook took every New Order cliche and combined it in an evil laboratory experiment to create the perfect New Order song. It’s all here — the high-plucked bass, the oblique love-song lyrics, and that distinctive New Order-yet-not voice. Shameless, yes, but perhaps Hook had a lot more to do with New Order’s sound and success than we think?

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Third — and probably best — single “Sweet Lips” (download) traded more on later New Order, incorporating the house and dance influences that formed much of Technique and Republic. Again, nothing new or groundbreaking here, but it was definitely the most New Order-sounding of all the members’ solo projects.

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Thankfully, not all of Music for Pleasure is New Order by numbers. “Buzz Gum” sounds like an outtake from then-hot Oasis and “Junk” borders on total trance, something New Order helped pioneer but never quite immersed themselves in. Music for Pleasure is, well, sort of essential for any New Order fan, though, since sound-wise it can sit after Republic as a “lost” album. While Music is still pretty plentiful thanks to many used copies out there, Monaco’s second album, a self-titled affair released in 2000, was in and out of print so fast that copies command anywhere up to $200, when you actually come across one. I’ve yet to physically see a copy.

Monaco split soon after that and Hook returned to New Order, only to quit the band last year. He currently has a new project called Freebass. Potts is working on solo material, but Monaco reformed for a one-off gig in Manchester last year, and the two plan to work on remasters of Monaco’s two albums. No word if they’ll be called the Brass Balls Remasters.

“What Do You Want From Me?” peaked at #24 on the Billboard Modern Rock Chart in 1997.

Get Monaco music from Amazon.