Monday, November 07, 2011

31. Joy Division, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (1980)


As epitaphs go, you're hard put to find many more apt ones to chisel onto the gravestone of Joy Division's much lamented and still missed Ian Curtis, who wrote this song with mates Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, and Bernard Sumner, who would go on—improbably, or so I thought for a long time—to become New Order (and please don't miss the Nazi thematics bridging the two). Curtis poured a lot of himself into this, somehow you just know it even if you don't know who he is or much about him. He even picked up a guitar to play a few chords. I have never found it as ruinously bleak as the first two albums, perhaps because I happened to acquire the single shortly after it was released and spent many weeks and months puzzling over it. As sonics, it strikes an almost impossible balance between robotic and organic, even as it brims with a sadness almost impossible to put one's finger on. It's also catchy as hell, with a melody that sticks good and hard. Often, when I find myself frustrated by something yet compelled anyway to continue worrying it—a particularly knotty anacrostic, say—I have found myself singing cheerily, "There's a taste in my mouth / As desperation takes hold," humming and even whistling. Maybe that's something about me. Joy Division occupies an interesting niche at this juncture, lo these many decades on, at once overrated and underrated. I don't like Closer the way I know so many others do, but I have often been intimate with Unknown Pleasures. And this, from title to tune to verse to chorus, has long been a stone favorite, perfect, and surprisingly so, for so many occasions.

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