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.
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.
Available on: Republic