Joy Division bridged the gap between punk music and the rise of goth, existing in some sort of post-punk transitory state. They brought necessary sophistication and restraint to punk music. Where punk evoked rage and energy, Joy Division hypnotized listeners with intense mood and expression. Their music is reminiscent of gloomy, grey skies, if only the clouds wore trench-coats and smoked cigarettes frequently, which in the UK, it turns out they do.
Ian’s pain and isolation can be experienced through tortured lyrics and dark bass lines. Each song has a powerful cathartic effect on the listener, allowing them to embrace an inner existential anxiety. Brooding, cold, fractured, raw, mysterious, sublime, emotionally resonant, and alienated are a few appropriate adjectives to describe their sound, and this characteristic sound lead to goth, new wave, and melancholic indie rock, eventually leading to a current trend in post-punk revivalism.
Watching 24 Hour Party People did provide one benefit.
It is this quote:
“No band survives the death of its lead singer.”
Before Ian’s death, they agreed if any member left, Joy Division would cease to exist. In January 1981, less than a year after Ian’s death, the 3 remaining members became New Order, with guitarist Bernard Sumner taking over vocals.
New Order “Ceremony” (1981)
This track was released as New Order’s debut single, though it was composed as Joy Division. With lyrics written by Ian, it was one of the band’s last compositions. New Order re-recorded the track, although 3 recordings from Joy Division exist. However, due to barely audible vocals, they had to put the rehearsal tape through a graphic equalizer, boosting and cutting certain frequencies so they could decipher the lyrics.
As New Order progressed throughout the 1980s, they found it difficult to outgrow their past as Joy Division. With singles such as “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “Atmosphere” high on the charts, many songs and albums were reissued, a tribute album entitled A Means to an End was released, and widow Deborah Curtis wrote a biography about Ian, called Touching From a Distance.
Although their style retained dark elements, it was inherently lighter and more playful than Joy Division.
Without Curtis they appeared to have a brooding deficit.
You can hear this new identity in two of their well-known singles…
“Blue Monday” and “Bizarre Love Triangle”
New Order “Blue Monday”
New Order “Bizarre Love Triangle”
The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen were important contemporaries/followers of Joy Division and deserve mentioning. Particularly noticeable is the influence on bass progression and vocals.The Cure “Lovesong”
Echo and the Bunnymen “The Killing Moon”
The opening song for the film Donnie Darko, singer Ian McCulloch has some pretty great quotes regarding the song, telling Uncut magazine in issue 138:
“You don’t need to read The Bible, you can listen to ‘The Killing Moon’ and get as much out of it. It’s the greatest song ever written.”
“I woke up with that lyric, ‘Fate up against your will,’ as if God had given it to me in my sleep. Recently I realised what it is – it’s that soliloquy, ‘To be or not to be’ – but it’s even better, because I’m f—in’ singing it.”
Nine Inch Nails “Dead Souls”
I originally associated this song with Nine Inch Nails, so I had no idea it related to Joy Division until I watched Control. The song was featured in the hilarious slapstick film, The Crow, a film that has almost as many sequels as The Land Before Time.
Here is a list of Joy Division tribute bands and song covers (of which there are many): List of Joy Division Covers and Tribute Bands
Post-Punk Revival–Joy Division in the 21st Century:
I like to think of these bands as what Joy Division could have become.
I am so glad post punk has revived, although by tomorrow it will have a different name (insert some fancy genres). Regardless of their classification, these bands evoke the essence of Joy Division, and the soul of Ian Curtis. I like to pretend that when he died, he sent little pieces of his creativity to the minds of these future artists, and they grew up determined to fulfill that legacy. I think Ian would feel proud.
We Are Scientists “Ghouls”
They started in California as a trio, developing their sound more fully when they moved to Brooklyn. Despite a modest following in the states, their sound deeply resonated in the UK, leading their debut album With Love and Squalor to become a gold-selling hit. They executed their second album as a duo, debuting at number 11 on the 2008 UK album charts, a fact that demonstrates their immense popularity overseas.
In general, I would describe them as math-rock, though they are definitely crucial to the post-punk revival.
I love this video.
She Wants Revenge “Killing Time”
Made up of LA DJs “Adam 12” Bravin and Justin Warfield, they formed She Wants Revenge in 2003. Growing up, they listened to dance-oriented bands that simultaneously connected on an emotional level, such as The Cure, The Smiths, and The Furs. In 2008, they formed their own record label called Perfect Kiss.
This song is amazing.
She Wants Revenge “Tear You Apart”
Directed by Joaquin Phoenix, the video has a late 1950s, Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe.
“Love Will Tear You Apart” (Joy Division x She Wants Revenge x Bauhaus)
In an interview with Suicide Girls Adam mentioned he’d love to tour with their heroes The Cure and Bauhaus. This song conveniently mashes up Joy Division, She Wants Revenge, and Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, which all have similar bass lines. They did a really nice job.
The Bravery “Tyrant”
The Organ “Brother”
Post-punk combined with dreamy pop music, this group appeared on an episode of the L Word (Season 2), and the girl’s voice alone demands inclusion to this post. They are Canadian, which also helps because Canadians are awesome. They disbanded in 2006 due to numerous lineup changes and creative differences.
Moving Units “Scars” (from 2004 album Dangerous Dreams)
Formerly known as the hardcore band Festival of Dead Deer, Moving Units officially started in 2001. Influenced by acts like Gang of Four and Blondie, the dark bass lines seem very Joy Division, and the lyrical subject matter reminds me of something Ian would write. Very cerebral and mysterious.
Scarred in the heart
Slashed in the vein
Nothing is changing
Nothing’s the same
Lost in the head
Crawling inside a stranger instead while you’re
Waiting for somebody else (Waiting)
Somebody else (We’re waiting)
Somebody else (For something / For someone / For something)
While you’re waiting for somebody else (Waiting)
Whatever helps (We’re waiting)
Somebody else (For something / For someone / For something)
Cover the welts
Between here and tomorrow
Moving Units “Anyone” (also from Dangerous Dreams)
Somehow we survive, we don’t even try,
We don’t like who we are, but we pretend anyway
Because we’re human and such, we long for someone to touch
A little death to escape, a shallow grave with a face
Somehow we collide, we don’t even know why
We can’t quite comprehend, what makes us crawl in our skin
Because we’re empty inside, we get no thrilled from this life
Consumed by pillars of fire, convicted by our desire
Originally dubbed ‘Snowfield’, The Editors seems more fitting.
They formed sometime around early 2003 in Birmingham, England, and were one of the leaders in reviving the post-punk scene. The lead singer’s baritone voice has an uncanny resemblance to that of Curtis.
Snake Rattle Rattle Snake:
If Joy Division had a bad ass front woman, they would resemble this band (meant as the highest compliment possible). Put simply: I love this group. They have a raw, dark, seductive power unlike anything I’ve heard.
With their use of ghostly atmospheric guitars, reverberant and compelling vocals, and a pulsating, intense rhythm section, it’s no surprise they’ve won “Best Indie Rock Band” by the Westword three years in a row, and “Band of the Year” by 303 Magazine and the Denver Post.
Finding it difficult to get a picture of their current lineup, I chose this spooky ghost one because it’s cool, and contains four of their consistent members: Wilson Helmericks (guitar, machines, percussion), Hayley Helmericks (vocals, keys), Doug Spencer (guitar), Andrew Warner (drums/percussion).
When searched, I get a wide variety of snake related photos, like this:
“Parallel Lines” (Brass Tree Sessions)
Brass Tree Sessions film short-form documentaries that feature Colorado’s best local and touring acts, live from a house in Denver. This one occurred during the Underground Music Showcase 2012. The UMS happens every summer, anticipated by fans of local, independent music in the Denver scene. An older song, “Parallel Lines” resides on their 2009 self-titled EP.
“Like a Moth” (Brass Tree Sessions)
“Break the Same”
This video and song fit perfectly, both giving off a sense of urgency. The video also has spooky, highly inaccurate typing.
“Kafka and the Milk” (Live at the 33rd SDFF)
The whole song builds into a cathartic, hypnotizing finish. They rock out despite technical difficulties. Another one of my favorites.
“Versus” (OpenAir Studio Session)
A milestone performance for OpenAir, “Versus” marked the 1000th song recorded in their studio.
The National “Anyone’s Ghost” (Live from an abandoned castle overlooking New York’s Hudson River)
While The National deserves their own post, they can’t be excluded from this one. Similar to Joy Division, they have a very organic, sophisticated, somber, earnest sound, yet their tone quality feels warmer. They formed during the late 1990s post-punk revival, though they incorporate a variety of styles, including indie rock, Americana, and Britpop.
The National “Mistaken For Strangers” (from Boxer)
Floria Sigismondi, also known for her work on The Runaways film, directed this video. Interpol formed during the late 90s, only gaining international popularity during the NYC revival of 2002. The members dress in matching suits, giving them a unique visual appearance which hints at British sophistication.
The Whitest Boy Alive “Burning”
Initially, they began as an electronic dance music project in Berlin, Germany.
Slowly they developed into something without pre-programmed elements.
Erlend øye is on guitar and vocals.
I can’t wait to learn these moves!
The Whitest Boy Alive “Fireworks” (Dreams)
Lyrics. Bass line. All good things.
Foals. I am not sure what to say.
This group has never produced a bad song. The tiny lead singer really does have the voice of an angel, or perhaps, of the entire angelic choir. Sorry, angels! They are amazing live, even with a bunch of shitty drunk frat boys who like to spill beer on me.
Yannis Philippakis initially began on guitar, adding vocals to his skill set when their former front man left to focus on his other effort, Youthmovies. The name Foals plays on the etymology of Philippakis, a diminutive of Philippos, an Ancient Greek name for a person who loves horses. And therefore my mom’s new name is Philippos.
Foals “Olympic Airways” (Antidotes)
Foals “Spanish Sahara” (live session)
Tragic and haunting in true Joy Division style.
You can also watch the Joy Division Documentary for free
Some final thoughts:
Despite being a particularly vexing piece to write, it is probably the most important one to post.
This month marks the 10 year anniversary of my friend Bob Fadzen, taking his life. But what is 10 years? Time is irrelevant. It doesn’t heal all wounds, at least not in this case. Everyone who knew him and experienced this is more or less fucked up for life. No matter how sad or hopeless he was, he will never know what it feels like to find something like that, or to hear that phone call. He is loved and missed immensely to this day.
Avail was one of his favorite bands, so this one is for you Bob.
Anyone reading this who wants to preserve his memory can take a shot of Wild Turkey. Gobble Gobble.
Avail “Simple Song” (from 4am Friday)
If you, or anyone you know, even your cat, is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, please do something about it. I have been there, on both sides of it, and you can’t imagine the grief that surrounds something like this. Unless of course you’re going through it, then you can imagine it.
Please seek help in some form. Or do what I do: surround yourself with music.
Take B12. Fish oil. Chocolate. Pet lots of cats.
Watch dumb videos of other cats on repeat.
Help in this world is abundant, you simply have to ask for it.
Here are a few resources to get started
Another way to help is by donating to suicide awareness and prevention.
Take care of yourselves. Thanks for reading.