Special

Times Change < Special > Avalanche

It isn’t what it used to be…

For a while there Republic had lost its way for me. I disliked disliking music from my favourite band, and I recall when first listening through the album that I grew increasingly worried that this was no way to bookend – if indeed this was to be an ending – a peerless and transformative 15 years of music (Joy Division-inclusive). Were New Order really going to end on a flat note – stuck in a funk of lackluster songwriting? Were second-rate MOR tunes with ho-hum programming and unoriginal delivery really going to supply this glorious band’s closing notes?

Stop saying that you’re calling time…

Thankfully with Special (and Avalanche) Bernard, Stephen, Peter and Gillian took (in my mind) a collective deep breath, looked in the mirror, and remembered who they were: the world’s finest purveyors of original, alternative, melancholy, ‘northern’, electronic/rock music; and with these two tracks they managed to close out an imperfect album near-perfectly.

I’m intoxicated…

Special is superb.

  • Bernard’s wistful singing of lyrics that sound so very final, and the instances where his emotion rises above the central performance; particularly with the “I’m sick of trying, I mean that it’s over” line. The reprise verse at the end is wonderful. In five minutes Sumner covers all the ground we want him to: love, regret, hope, fear, vitriol, passion, disappointment.
  • Gillian & co’s gorgeous strings and lush keyboard instrumentation. The outro is lovely, and for a change the song works beautifully with a fadeout.
  • A classic Hook performance: bass melody that drives the track.
  • The tones and emphases in the production, such as the slight phasing of the organ sound at the end of each line in the verses. Hague really nailed this recording.
  • The drum programming is thoughtful and complex without overriding everything else, and there are some subtly terrific drum rolls from Morris.

I thought it couldn’t be, then I changed my mind…

It is Special and Avalanche – along with Regret, World, Everyone Everywhere, and Young Offender – that offer the kind of heart-stirring stuff that we’ve come to expect from New Order, and indeed makes Republic linger in my mind as one of the band’s good (but far from great) albums. At the time – and certainly post Reading’93 when the band effectively split – I felt very strongly that the “It was always special…” line served as a poignant closure to New Order’s incredible time in the light. Little did we suspect then that the stars would realign 5 years later.

Rating: xxxxi

Available on: Republic

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8 thoughts on “Special

  1. Another one worth rediscovering via your reviews…I always tend to underestimate this track buried as it is at the end of an underwhelming half of a less-than-stellar album. If you listen to it half-aware while it burbles away in the background it doesn’t really grab your attention. But it’s a beautiful song, with an absolutely gorgeous bassline. Worth playing LOUD for all its intricacies to come out (which is what I’ve just done). This is an album that really deserves the deluxe reissue treatment I think…

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  2. You really nailed it — this is one of Bernard’s most emotive performances, hands down. In a way, it almost feels like a throwback track.

    Re-listening to this album, I must say, it’s not really as bad as I’d thought it was. And it only gets better from here — Avalanche is amazing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It was interesting to me to read this great song review within minutes after reading the news on facebook that NO and Hook have come to a legal settlement on their disputes. No details (yet). It just has me thinking about milestones, starts, endings, and I’m left here feeling melancholy. I’m not a person who handles ‘goodbye’s’ well, whether they involve me personally or not. That settlement, I’m sure, represents a very big ‘goodbye’. ‘Special’ felt like a very big goodbye as well, at the time. What I need to do now is play MusicComplete real loud and dance around the house doing some much needed housecleaning. Tuitti fruitti always makes me cheer up.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The title (like another excellent review), says it all really. You know when you hear Hooky’s subtle tones at the start and throughout the track that it going to be good. Love the chorus and the build up to the end fade out is ‘special’

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  5. Wonderful track.
    Easily my second favourite track on the LP after Regret.

    Beautiful work by Hook. Great lyrics and a pretty great vocal.

    Truly special.

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  6. Just listened to the whole of Republic for the first time in several decades😕 (on the back of your excellent project). I was completely underwhelmed at the time, and didn’t listen to it much for many years. I felt at the time that it was a sad record of where the band had got to, and a sad time for me personally Then. It really isn’t a bad record in retrospect. It’s mostly quite good, in terms of the songs and compositions. The only thing is that the synth instrumentation sounds quite dated, generic and very MoR, even at the time. It’s clear to see they were going though the motions, but even for that, it’s an achievement. Special is a standout, though, and just seems to encapsulate the feel of the times for me back then.

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