Mar 5, 2014
Republic is a strange record. The sixth New Order LP contains as many indifferent tunes as it does great New Order moments. It’s a record of two halves, the first a collection of run of the mill LP tracks, that became fabulous singles, the second a collection of run of the mill LP tracks.
It gave us one great New Order single and spawned both their best remix and best video and includes the great underrated New Order song. On the other hand, it has singer Bernard Sumner rapping.
According to bass player Peter Hook, it was an LP that had to be made—and was only made—to meet financial commitments.
Republic was a very interesting LP because we had split up, and Bernard had gone off to work with Johnny Marr in Electronic, and we had to be brought back together again because Factory [New Order’s erstwhile record company] was on the verge of bankruptcy, as was the Hacienda [Factory and New Order’s Manchester club]. So the only way we could stave off the bankruptcy was to do the album.
Because of the personal guarantees the band had in the business, we stood to lose our houses if we didn’t to the LP to refinance. As it happened, it didn’t really make a difference—both companies went bankrupt—and we could have saved ourselves the agony of doing the LP. Bernard in particular hated doing it because he couldn’t fucking stand the Hacienda, he thought that it had destroyed everything. And he didn’t want to do it to save Factory because he thought Factory had made too many fuck-ups of their own.
As Hook says, the LP started of well with Regret, possibly the last totemic New Order single, albeit the the one with the Regrettable Top of the Pops performance.
But after that, the recording “went completely fucking downhill”. Hook says that the subsequent 10 tracks were largely the work of singer Bernard Sumner and producers Owen Morris and Stephen Hague and that he, drummer Stephen Morris and keyboard player Gillian Gilbert were largely written out.
Me, Gillian, and Stephen had done a lot of work on our own. By the time we got to Bath, Bernard was very unhappy about doing the whole bleeding thing. We were actually really close—the three of us—on that particular record, but when we got back to recording, Bernard started changing everything. … What he did was, because there were no vocals done, you were in one studio doing the music, and then he’d take the music off to another studio and do the vocals
We’d go in and listen and go, “Oh, this sounds different!” And he’d say, “Oh, I had to get rid of that because I couldn’t get a vocal line or it wasn’t inspiring.” And then it was every track! And I was like, “Oh, fuck!” Really all the music that us three had done was gone for all intents and purposes.¹
Hook’s bass lines were later rerecorded, a process he recalls with little nostalgia, but at least they ensured that in the largest part, it still sounds like a New Order LP, an outcome that suggests Hook’s recollections may need to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Had tracks two and three remained just that, we may largely have forgotten them; their single releases changed that. After Regret had given the band a fifth UK top 10 hit, peaking at number four, track three, Ruined in a Day, became the second single, featuring a transformative treatment by Welsh house masters, K-Klass. New Order helped to pioneer remixing in the UK; this is their best.
New Order :: Ruined in a Day [Reunited in a day remix]
Ruined in a Day was a number 22 smash. The next single, a reworking the second track World, fared slightly better, reaching number 13. Remixed and rebranded as World (the Price of Love), its relative success could well have been due in no small part to the outstanding video. Filmed in Cannes, it’s one of few New Order promos in which the band appear, although in this case those appearances are fleeting and easily missed. But not as elusive as the name of the director, which the internet does not appear willing to give up.
New Order :: World (the Price of Love)
Track four, Spooky, became the the forth single, more of which later, before the first side of the LP closed with the great underrated, dareisay forgotten, New Order song.
New Order :: Everyone Everywhere
If side one started strongly, so did side two. No band ever made electronic music quite like this; that it sounds so much like a New Order and not an Electronic track suggests that there was more than one hand involved.
New Order :: Young Offender
Thereafter the LP drifts, each subsequent track has its moments without ever making the listener pick up the needle and play it again. Republic was where New Order signed off, having done as much as any band to transform the musical landscape. They suddenly, unexpectedly returned in 2001 with Get Ready, but it was a different band, shorn of Gillian and with a less electronic, more rock sound, and while it has its moments, it’s the sound of a band shorn of much of its creative essence, a fact that was only confirmed by 2005’s Waiting for the Sirens’ Call.
But for a band who had supposedly fallen out, split up and gone their own ways, they managed some remarkable live performances in the wake of Republic, not least this one, which includes a shimmering, shivering version of Everyone Everywhere.
New Order :: Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival
So good, it’s spooky.
New Order :: Spooky [Stadium mix]
Photo: New Order / Republic / singles designed by Peter Saville Associates.