Avalanche

Special < Avalanche > Brutal

I love Gillian’s voice. On Avalanche she only repeats the word ‘Faith‘, so there’s not much to talk about lyric-wise, but I feel it important to take this moment to acknowledge a beautiful and highly underrated singer.

In this modern world of vocal gymnastics, auto-tuning, and female talent wasted fronting a tidal wave of usually-misogynistic millennial rap, I find myself admiring more and more the indie female voice so typified by the likes of Gillian, Jenny Cassidy (RIP) of Section 25 (and indeed her daughter Bethany), Denise Johnson, Cath Carroll, Harriet Wheeler, Kirsty MacColl, Shirley Manson, Tracey Thorn, Dawn Zee, Jacqui Hunt, Claudia Brücken, Siouxsie, Sarah McLachlan, (more recently) Lauren Mayberry, Alison Goldfrapp, and (on another plane altogether) the incomparable Elizabeth Fraser.

We can complain about New Order’s band members’ divergences to their various projects and the impact this had on the core band circa-Republic, but we can also celebrate the fact that we got to hear The Other Two, for Stephen and Gillian really know how to craft gorgeous tunes. Gillian is too-shy by half, and that makes her all the more gracious. Her humility belies an inspiring talent, and anyone who chooses to underrate her (you know who you are) can royally fuck off and get a life. When Anna and I had the opportunity here in Brisbane a couple of years back to take Gillian & Stephen to lunch, it was an ego-free conversation about family, farms, Factory, and lives well-spent. This was a conscious ‘choice’ because in our estimation they are (and remain) the two coolest members of the band.

At the end of a challenging album, this song – and indeed Gillian’s gentle call to arms – restored my (temporary loss of) faith in New Order; and if this was to be their swansong then it was a perfect ending. Avalanche has the most atmosphere, the most beautiful melodies and orchestration, and the most heart of any track on the album. It feels like they all put their differences aside one last time to channel the sublime; drawing as they collectively did some of their finest instrumental performances on Republic: the lovely interplay between bass and acoustic guitars, the washes of synth, strings and reverbed piano, the deep tones and echoes, the simple but metronomic drum loop, and of course Gillian’s voice – as if it were itself a backing violin. Avalanche has a real melancholy cinematic quality to it, and that final held note is like the dimming light at dusk – always my favourite time of day.

Republic then – a flawed gem of an album. A gem with signs of wear and better days past, but when held up to the light still shows flashes of emerald brilliance. A gem that with a bit of recut and polish somewhere down the line might once again radiate pure class. A gem that’s worth holding onto just in case.

…and Gillian, don’t worry we’ll keep the faith – see you back here in 2011.

Rating: xxxxx

Available on: Republic

 

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14 thoughts on “Avalanche

  1. I’ve been thanking the universe recently for Allison Goldfrapp… oh and by the way, did you ever hear the duet between Caudia Brucken and Andy Bell, called “Love Oneself” on Andy’s solo album Electric Blue (2005)? It’s a classic, a real gem. Seek it out. Dennis, have you kinda wondered why Gillian maybe shoulda or coulda been used in some of those female parts on Music Complete? Not that there’s anything wrong with the final product (aside from Iggy Pop), but surely we might have heard Gillian and really enjoyed it…

    In any case, yep, Avalanche is a wonderful melancholy ending…. Its as if the band were at odds thru much of this album, then they set down the baggage to just play this song with all the beauty they were capable of. It makes me think of Mott the Hoople putting out that final single “Saturday Gigs” at the very end of their tenure, and at the end of the song, they were all singing a very beautiful but melancholy melody of “Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye”……(and if any of you don’t know that song, you should….pull it up and listen to it!

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  2. Well said. Gillian is my favourite band member and it was marvelous to have her return to the band. And like her, I also value family. Family comes first. Thankfully though she can now satisfy her creativity. ; )

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  3. I love how Gillian’s voice works in this track, but comparing her to people like Denise Johnson? I think that might be harsh on Denise. Denise & Dawn were hired for Nothing But a Fool for their professional vocal abilities. I don’t think Gillian could have matched them. Having said that, I’d love to see NO playing this live, and I remember thinking that Avalanche would have been a great intro track to say “Gillian’s back” when I caught their Troxy gig back in 2011. Maybe one day eh…

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  4. I haven’t heard every one of those vocalists, but my favorite of the bunch is Tracey Thorn. I like her solo works, but what I’d give for Everything But the Girl to come back with an album like Amplified Heart…! One of the few albums where I listen without skipping a single song.

    Avalanche is amazing, NO’s best pure instrumental. Elegia isn’t chopped liver, of course, but Avalanche is really quite good. Now on a bit of a tangent, I recently listened to Marine on Monaco’s second album, and you know what? That’s a really lovely bit of music, too. Which of course then reminds me of Electronic’s Soviet, which is also quite nice.

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    1. Denise Johnson = A Certain Ratio et al
      Harriet Wheeler = The Sundays
      Shirley Manson = Garbage
      Tracey Thorn = EBTG
      Jacqui Hunt = Single Gun Theory
      Claudia Brücken = Propaganda et al
      Sarah McLachlan = Delerium et al
      Lauren Mayberry = CHVRCHES
      Elizabeth Fraser = Cocteau Twins et al

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  5. I never realised it was hookups bass in the chorus. I didn’t for a minute imagine he was on this track. It’s a gorgeous tune and a great finale.

    Gillian has been criminally underused in NO. Her vocals would have been great on 1963, technique, lonesome tonight and even blinking rock the shack!

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  6. A lovely song with some delicate touches. I’m not quite there with some of the stratospheric evaluations. It’s not as good as Elegia for me – it’s always seemed a bit too short and insubstantial. Perhaps if it were a minute or two longer it would make the difference.

    I agree with your evaluation of Gillian’s vocal talents- much underused. Did I totally imagine an early interview about the time of MC where she said they had recorded a song with her doing the vocals but it hadn’t made the album? Maybe I dreamt it..

    As for Republic, a flawed gem indeed. It’s got a lot of haters, and is part of a common narrative where NO peaked in ’89 and everything after then has been largely pants. But I loved it at the time and still do. Of course it’s tied up with being the only NO album apart from Technique I got into at the time rather than retrospectively (having only got into them in 1988), it coinciding with my last months at Uni, seeing them at Reading for the first (and what looked for a long while to be the only) time, and sensing that they had genuine mass appeal during 1993 (with 4 hit singlesin the UK). I didn’t know much about the behind the scenes stuff at the time, obviously, or I might have had a slightly different view.

    Over time, the weaknesses became apparent, which your reviews have rightly pointed out. Compared with previous albums, Republic is more mainstream, conservative, glossy, safe, dated, uneven, and it heralds some of the weaknesses that became even more apparent later (poppy, insubstantial songs, the losing of cutting edge, lyrical dodginess and a fair few ‘will this do’ moments). That said, the strengths still vastly outweigh the weaknesses (and your review convinces me that, bar Chemical, which is execrable, it is still very good album indeed). It’s certainly better than the two that come after it, although they have their moments and I’ll be fascinated to see how you cover those…So thanks, even a certain ex-bassist’s bile about their later years (his Substance book really left a sour taste) can’t spoil this one for me, and I feel like I’ve appreciated it all over again.

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    1. Didn’t imagine it: http://thequietus.com/articles/18914-new-order-interview-music-complete

      ‘I got asked to do a few benefit gigs in Paris, Brussels, and London, at the beginning of summer in 2011. In the time I’d been away I’d done a lot of music in the studio, and Stephen and I did some soundtrack stuff together for Channel 4. So I was always doing music but I had this idea about singing as well. As I got back into New Order, I thought I’d like to do a bit of singing, so I did a track, which still hasn’t come out. But essentially they asked me to come back, and I was like, “Oh, okay.”’

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      1. I suspect the track she was referring to was Lifetime by Koishii & Hush which she did lead vox on. Of course Gillian’s voice is *technically* on Music Complete if you listen carefully to the chorus of Restless. I’m curious to know what soundtrack stuff S&G did for Channel 4 though…

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      2. Yes, good spot on the Koishii & Hush track, which is probably what the reference is to. That track passed me by at the time, but I’ve now gone for a listen.

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  7. Nice to see the love for Gillian.
    I’m convinced that New Order’s recent return to form is largely due to the return of Ms Gilbert / Morris.

    You know, she’s probably my favourite member of the band too, if I had to pick (although I love them all; even the Viking-God himself 🙂 ).
    I had (probably ‘have’, if truth be told) a massive crush on Gillian.
    Brains, beauty, poise and coolness. Plus she’s in the greatest band that ever lived. Perfect combination.

    Would love for Gilbert/Morris’ soundtrack work to get some sort of release.
    I really think they should look into this, even if it was ‘download only’. I’d buy it, certainly.

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  8. Gillian has been so underused, it is nice to see her included in the list of female indie voices ( especially Claudia Brücken, Tracey Thorn and thank god for Alison Goldfrapp) , I would also add Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo from the wonderful Ladytron.

    Anyway, The atmosphere generated by ‘Avalanche’ considering it’s lyric(s) is astounding and it was something that I held onto until ‘Get Ready’s’ release, much more preferable than ‘Elegia’ and in retrospect Republic is not as bad as many think

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