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.
Available on: Republic