POP ALBUM REVIEW : 'Republic' a Bit Too Comfortable

** 1/2

New Order, "Republic," Qwest. This once groundbreaking post-punk force has settled comfortably in a slot halfway between Depeche Mode and R.E.M.--maybe too comfortably. There are plenty of textural pleasures in this distinctive folk-rock-techno blend, but little groundbreaking going on anymore.

* New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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