Sometimes a great album can emerge out of the most difficult of circumstances. Even if the four band members aren’t getting along, and fighting like cat and dog, sometimes, the music they make can be outstanding. When New Order reconvened after a four year hiatus, to record Republic, it seemed that everything that could go wrong, was going wrong. During the recording sessions, morale among the band was at an all time low. Their record company Factory Records had collapsed, costing the band dearly, and New Order continued to pump money into their legendary nightclub The Hacienda in Manchester. The Hacienda, by then, wasn’t the same club as it had been at the height of the acid house years, and specifically, the second summer of love. Instead, it had been infiltrated by gangsters, and chaos and violence reigned. Opening Dry, a bar in the city centre had compounded the problem. Factory Records had previously bailed The Hacienda out, but after its demise, it no longer had a “benefactor” to subsidize it. After the demise of Factory Records, New Order signed a record contract with London Records, and their first album for their new label was Republic. Having survived such turbulent times, Republic was released on 3rd May 1993.
Republic had been recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios near bath. It was the first New Order since 1989’s Technique, which had been released on Factory Records. Four singles were released from the album. This included Regret, Ruined In A Day, World and Spooky. Regret gave New Order their highest chart position in the US charts, reaching number twenty-eight in the Billboard Hot 100. On Republic’s release, it reached number one in the UK album charts and number eleven in the US Billboard 200. After an appearance at the 1993 Reading Festival, the four band members went their separate ways, working on various side projects. Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr worked together again as Electronic, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert recorded as The Other Two, and Peter Hook formed Monaco with David Potts, formerly of Revenge. However, much of Hooky’s time over the next few years was spent trying to solve the Hacienda problem. It would be a further eight years before another New Order album would be released, and five years before they played together as a group.
That was what was going on at the time Republic was recorded and released, and having survived such tumultuous times, it’s incredible that Republic is such a good album. Republic opens with Regret, one of the four singles taken from the album. Regret begins with guitars playing, they announce their arrival chiming hesitantly, yet brightly, reverberating, pausing briefly. Twice this happens before the songs begins properly, the sound gloriously full, drums pounding, guitars playing and Hooky’s bass ever-present. When Sumner sings, he sounds happy, his vocal sits just in front of the rest of the band. This song lacks the darkness of many previous New Order songs. It’s lighter and brighter, the tempo is quick and the song sets off at a rollicking pace. The lyrics speak of regrets, losing touch with people, knowing people, even loving them, yet being unable to trust them. Maybe this is a comment on life as a member of one of the biggest, most successful bands in the past thirty years. Listen to Regret, and what you hear are four minutes of New Order at their very best. Four great musicians, suddenly at peace with each other, playing and singing a brilliant song with some insightful lyrics.
Hooky’s bass plays at the start of World and is joined by sweeping synths and a keyboard plays. The sound is very different from Regret. When Bernard sings, Gillian Gilbert sings backing vocals. Her softer, gentler voice is a perfect foil for Bernard’s stronger, louder vocal. As they sing, the sound builds, a bank of synths seem to provide the backdrop, and become the mainstay of the track. Eventually, a keyboard interjects, and Bernard and Gilbert rejoin. Unlike the sound on Regret, which had a much more traditional, early New Order sound and feel, World is much more moderne, more influenced by the dancefloor than rock music. World is an infectious track, one that has a feelgood sound, and some thoughtful, questioning lyrics. Only two songs into Republic, the two sides to the band have emerged already.
Ruined In A Day is the third song on Republic, and the third single taken from the album. As the song begins, the tempo is much slower, and has a much more subdued sound. From the opening bars, the drama is set, an intensity is present. Drums play in the distance, the sound veers from a darkness, to a brighter sound. Still, there is a sense of theatre and drama. This continues when Bernard Sumer sings. He sings the song slowly, his voice lacking the brightness of previous tracks. Behind him the sound has a grandiose, dramatic feel, layers of synths play, with keyboards and drums combining. The track has a contemporary sound, drawing its influence from both rock and dance music. Although, very different to the two preceding tracks, Ruined In A Day is still a good track, one that has an intensity and drama present that grips you.
Spooky like the previous three tracks, was another single released from Republic. As the track begins, there is a real acid house influence. Synths and sequencers combine, a vocal emerges via a vocoder. The tempo is really dancefloor friendly. After thirty-five seconds, Bernard sings the vocal. That’s when things really start to change. Gone is the acid house influence for a while, the arrangement becomes more traditional, drums, guitar, bass and keyboards. However, things change again. Acid house influenced synths reemerge, rumbling darkly, almost thunderously. Overall, Spooky is a mixture of rock and dance, and sound’s great whether you’re at home or in a huge, cavernous, nightclub with a massive sound system.
When Everyone Everywhere begins, the difference between it and the other songs is apparent. Everyone Everywhere starts hesitantly. Drums play, Bernard’s vocal is slow, he leaves space as he sings. Behind him, the rest of the band drop the tempo. Guitars and Hooky’s brilliant bass playing can be heard, and sometimes, the guitar’s let of the leash. For a moment, it soars and screams. Most of the time, the arrangement is understated, which suits the song. It sits behind the vocal, never once overpowering it. If Bernard stops singing, the band fill the spaces. After, such different songs, Everyone Everywhere is a very different song, one that after a few plays, you’ll warm to and grow to like.
There’s an atmospheric start to Young Offender. The sound is moody and foreboding. It’s similar to Ruined In A Day. This lasts until Bernard sings, and after this the sound is much lighter, brighter and uplifting. Synths sequencers and drum machines are used to create this sound. As he sings, this sound sits behind him. These synths, sequencers and drum machines bring to mind a Balearic influence, sometimes tinges of Italian piano house emerge. Listen carefully, and even a funk influence can be heard. New Order add their own twist to these influences, using more traditional instruments to augment the sound. Young Offender is melodic, modern dance music for post acid house generation who, by now, were either growing old, or gravitating towards more mainstream house music.
Liar begins with a drums playing. There is a house influence. The house influence doesn’t end there. Keyboards play, and they too, sound not dissimilar to certain house records. Add to this sweeping synths, and you get the picture. When Bernard sings, Gillian sings backing vocals. This is similar to World. Her vocals are soft and have a sweetness. What is emerging, would’ve been unthinkable in either the days of Joy Division or early New Order. What’s that I hear you ask? Well, what you have is a really danceable track, one that’s perfect for the dancefloor. It’s catchy, infectious and hook laden, even taking into account the rather dark lyrics. They speak of betrayal, mistrust, lies and greed, maybe not the perfect subject for a dance record. However, listen to this track and you too, will want to dance, the tempo and beat are perfect for getting you on your feet.
Techno, that’s what I think at the start of Chemical. Beats are dark, synths are squelchy, a throwback to years gone back, and Chicago, home of techno. The tempo is quick, and from the start your hooked, smitten by the dark retro sound. Bernard sings in front of the beats. Behind him the sound fills out. Keyboards play, joining the fray. Sounds with an otherworldly sound emerge. They tantalize your ears, their infectiousness contagious. By now the sound is big, dark, moody, and before I forget, glorious. It’s new New Order’s take on techno, and my only regret, is Chemical didn’t last longer, because for four frantic minutes, I was transported back twenty years, to the birth of techno, and the Windy City of Chicago.
Times Change sweeps into being, it’s birth being dramatic. It’s dark moody, yet melodic. Bernard almost raps the lyrics, as behind him the rest of New Order concentrate on creating a grandiose, moody, almost cinematic soundscape. The track is laden in drama. Keyboards play dark Gothic sounding music, sometimes the sound verges upon ecclesiastical. At other times the sweeping synths produce melodies that have an understated beauty, a contrast to the overwhelming darkness that dominates the track. Drumbeats are constant, a reassuring backdrop that hardly varies. Towards the end of the track, an ethereal voice emerges from the darkness, but quickly, it’s enveloped and disappears instantly into the darkness, whence it came. Simply, Times Change’s grandiosity, intensity and darkness, is a gloriously overblown masterpiece by New Order.
A keyboard tinkles quietly, distantly at the start of Special. This opening fools you, because quickly things change. Drums, guitar and bass play, to be joined by synths. Bernard’s vocal is subtle, he sings well within himself. He sings almost quietly, with a softness. Behind his vocal, the rest of the band combine well. They too, play with a subtly. The sound grows, but never gets too loud, doesn’t ever threaten to overpower the vocal. Drums sit towards the front of the mix. Hooky’s bass playing is prominent, completing the rhythm section. The synths too, play their part, filling out the sound, contrasting well with the rhythm section. Throughout the track, it’s as if New Order are ensuring they don’t despoil what’s a bricolage of electronica and rock music.
Avalanche is another track with a dramatic opening. What sounds like vocals emerge from the distance, drums dramatically play. Keyboards lighten and brighten the mood, taking over as the prime mover in the track. Again drums appear, accompanying the keyboards. The tracks brightly sweeps along. Distant voices make a reappearance, a sound that soothes, as it sweeps along. By now a lovely glacial downtempo track has emerged, quite a contrast from other tracks. As the track ends, what sounds like a choir of ethereal voices unites, bringing a beautiful understated track to a close.
Republic may have emerged out of a chaotic time in New Order’s career, however, that hasn’t stopped the group from producing an outstanding album. Again, two major influences run through Republic. Dance and rock music have influenced the group, and those influences are apparent throughout the album. It’s always been one of my favorite New Order albums, as each track is of the highest quality. Of the eleven tracks, New Order cowrote each track. Each track features four great musicians using a mixture of technology and traditional instruments to produce some wonderful music. It’s music that thirteen years later, still sounds as fresh as the day it was released. Listening to Republic, brings to mind various genres of music. During Republic you’ll hear rock, house, techno, Balearic beats and even funk. It’s as if New Order have soaked up their favorite music, and allowed this to influence this album. For that, we must be thankful, as the album is one of New Order’s finest albums. For anyone who hasn’t heard Republic, it’s an album worth buying. To me, it’s the best of the three albums they recorded for London Records. In previous articles on New Order, I recommended Power, Corruption and Lies, Technique and their compilation album Substance. Add to those three albums, Republic, and you’ll own some of New Order’s finest music. Standout Tracks: Regret, Spooky, Liar and Times Change.