Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cymbal #14:: Love Will Tear Us Apart

Close your eyes. Listen.

Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart - 1980

You're lying on your bed, staring at the ceiling, back from school. It's been a cold day and the warmth of a bed is spreading through your body, the blankets bringing you back to some optimum level written into your veins. No one has called or will. You will not go anywhere today. You're not uncontrollably sad, just resigned, in a northern way. You don't want things to be better, because that would be a lie.

That bassline and the drumming at the start never really go away, but they learn to serve the synth and the backing vocals. In a way, the rhythm section is the spine and the synth and guitar are the flesh, filling out the spectrum of sound. But the soul is the vocals.

At the central phrase of the chorus, you can hear that the pain is absolutely real, the tenderness of freshly healed over scrape. Every time a band's greatest strength, it's emotional core, is a vocalist, covers of their songs stick at that point. And no one has quite expressed his melancholy in the same way as Ian Curtis. It's a much deeper sadness than the pain of Kurt Cobain, more human and cultured; less primal. Joy Division are not my favourite depressed English band. This is not even my favourite Joy Division song, but the sadness of that chorus refuses to go away.

An earlier version - also by Joy Division

Faster, earlier, more straight rock and less a tour of the priory. It has its charm, but it doesn't lend itself as well to soundtracking your week. Bands take what they will from Joy Division, and if this sounds more "modern', well, it's what they took.

The Swans - Love will Tear Us Apart - 1988

Break up the pacing, replace the keyboards with female backing vocals, add much  guitar. Suddenly you're not in your bedroom alone. You're in a dark bar listening to a two-piece act. It's arresting, but when you walk out, you may forget it.

As an aside, The Swans really didn't miss any tricks learning from Joy Division, did they?

The Swans - Miracle of Love - 1991

And finally, some girls.

Nouvelle Vague - Love Will Tear Us Apart - 2004

That isn't the same song at all. It's canon now, so you don't really have to be committed to the mood or the tone. And what would these sunny children know of melancholy? And I really wouldn't have mentioned it, if it wasn't for the fact that it has a beautiful fade out, like watching birds fly away in the snowy winter.

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