Monday, October 26, 2009

'80s Music Monday: Joy Division


I've been wanting to write about Joy Division from the first time I did '80s Monday, but I've been hesitant. For a simple reason really: Joy Division is one of the greatest bands ever -- not one of the greatest bands of a particular decade, one of the greatest bands ever -- and I'm afraid that I can't do them justice.

Joy Division formed in 1976 and only released one album before their lead singer and lyricist Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980. They released another album shortly after Curtis died, and another a year later. After Curtis's death, the band reorganized as New Order (another great band, my absolute favorite during the '80s, who I'll write about next time).

When anyone talks about what made Joy Division great, it wasn't because of their musicianship. Their playing was adequate, no more. Ian Curtis, frankly, couldn't sing for shit. Musically, he was just awful. But that actually made him better than he would have been if he sounded "prettier."

Because what made Joy Division great were the music and the lyrics. They were beautiful... except when they were ugly. And when they were ugly, they were still beautiful, because they were ugly on purpose. And Curtis's limitations as a vocalist fit them perfectly. Ian Curtis couldn't sing, but oh how he could sing. His tortured voice conveyed the anguish of his lyrics in a way that struck deep and true. This was especially so on Closer, the album released after his death, which in effect was an album-length suicide note.

"Love Will Tear Us Apart" (1979)
When routine bites hard
And ambitions are low
And resentment rides high
But emotions won't grow
And we're changing our ways,
Taking different roads
Then love, love will tear us apart again
Love will tear us apart again

Why is the bedroom so cold
Turned away on your side?
Is my timing that flawed,
Our respect run so dry?
Yet there's still this appeal
That we've kept through our lives
Love, love will tear us apart again
Love, love will tear us apart again

Do you cry out in your sleep
All my failings expose?
Get a taste in my mouth
As desperation takes hold
Is it something so good
Just can't function no more?
When love, love will tear us apart again
Love, love will tear us apart again
Love, love will tear us apart again
Love, love will tear us apart again



"She's Lost Control" (1979)
Confusion in her eyes that says it all.
She's lost control.
And she's clinging to the nearest passer by,
She's lost control.
And she gave away the secrets of her past,
And said I've lost control again,
And a voice that told her when and where to act,
She said I've lost control again.

And she turned to me and took me by the hand and said,
I've lost control again.
And how I'll never know just why or understand,
She said I've lost control again.
And she screamed out kicking on her side and said,
I've lost control again.
And seized up on the floor, I thought she'd die.
She said I've lost control again.
She's lost control again.
She's lost control.
She's lost control again.
She's lost control.

Well I had to phone her friend to state my case,
And say she's lost control again.
And she showed up all the errors and mistakes,
And said I've lost control again.
But she expressed herself in many different ways,
Until she lost control again.
And walked upon the edge of no escape,
And laughed I've lost control again.
She's lost control again.
She's lost control.
She's lost control again.
She's lost control.


"Dead Souls" (1979)
Someone take these dreams away,
That point me to another day,
A duel of personalities,
That stretch all true realities.

That keep calling me,
They keep calling me,
Keep on calling me,
They keep calling me.

Where figures from the past stand tall,
And mocking voices ring the halls.
Imperialistic house of prayer,
Conquistadors who took their share.

That keep calling me,
They keep calling me,
Keep on calling me,
They keep calling me.

Calling me, calling me, calling me, calling me.

They keep calling me,
Keep on calling me,
They keep calling me,
They keep calling me.



"Atrocity Exhibition" (1980)
Asylums with doors open wide,
Where people had paid to see inside,
For entertainment they watch his body twist
Behind his eyes he says, 'I still exist.'

This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.

In arenas he kills for a prize,
Wins a minute to add to his life.
But the sickness is drowned by cries for more,
Pray to God, make it quick, watch him fall.

This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.

This is the way.
This is the way.
This is the way.
This is the way.
This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.

You'll see the horrors of a faraway place,
Meet the architects of law face to face.
See mass murder on a scale you've never seen,
And all the ones who try hard to succeed.

This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.

And I picked on the whims of a thousand or more,
Still pursuing the path that's been buried for years,
All the dead wood from jungles and cities on fire,
Can't replace or relate, can't release or repair,
Take my hand and I'll show you what was and will be.


"The Eternal" (1980)
Procession moves on, the shouting is over,
Praise to the glory of loved ones now gone.
Talking aloud as they sit round their tables,
Scattering flowers washed down by the rain.
Stood by the gate at the foot of the garden,
Watching them pass like clouds in the sky,
Try to cry out in the heat of the moment,
Possessed by a fury that burns from inside.

Cry like a child, though these years make me older,
With children my time is so wastefully spent,
A burden to keep, though their inner communion,
Accept like a curse an unlucky deal.
Played by the gate at the foot of the garden,
My view stretches out from the fence to the wall,
No words could explain, no actions determine,
Just watching the trees and the leaves as they fall.

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