I enjoyed a nice open water swim in the canal this morning with the Coach. The water was warm and the sunrise was a beautiful pink spreading across the sky. A perfect day for a swim. Anyway, I’ve since showered, grabbed a coffee and I’m sitting here at my desk in Ground Zero and Corporate Hell. I’m the first one here. It’s actually peaceful and I’m actually getting stuff accomplished. I’d better because I know the storm will blow in sooner or later. This morning’s musical selection is a bit out of left field, the ‘Closer‘ album by Joy Division.
I originally listened to Joy Division back in high school. Not so much because I loved or understood what they doing, but because all my friends loved them. I mean, ‘Love will Tear Us Apart‘ was cool and popular, but I doubt anyone else knew a single other tune. Hey, what did I know? I just wanted to be loved and accepted.
Initially, I got into New Order but then, being the total glutton for musical history that I am, I backtracked through the New Order catalog until I got to the beginning and, eventually, Joy Division. I didn’t really connect with them though and listened to them mostly because they were “cool”. I figure this was pretty much the same with my friends as well. Now, many years later, I get why they were “cool”. In fact, my Bible (Mojo, August 1995) ranks this album as #53 on it’s list of the ‘100 Greatest Albums Ever Made’. How cool am I now?
Formed by Sumner and Hook after the two attended a Sex Pistols gig, Joy Division (along with singer Ian Curtis and drummer Stephen Morris) transcended their punk roots to develop a sound and style that made them one of the pioneers of the post-punk movement. In January 1980, Joy Division set out on a European tour. While the tour schedule was difficult, Curtis (who also suffered from severe depression) experienced two grand mal seizures in the tours final two months. Shortly afterwards, they recorded this album in London’s Britannia Row Studios. After recording, the band prepared for their first North American tour in support of the album. While Curtis had expressed a desire to take time off to visit a few acquaintances, he feigned excitement about the tour around the band because he did not want to disappoint his band mates or their new Factory Records label. The evening before the band were to fly out, Curtis returned to his home in Macclesfield to talk to his by then estranged wife. He asked her to drop the recent divorce suit she had filed; later, he told her to leave him alone in the house until he caught a train to Manchester the following morning. Early on the 18th of May, 1980, having spent the night watching the Werner Herzog film’ Stroszek’, Curtis hanged himself in his kitchen while listening to ‘The Idiot‘ by Iggy Pop. Deborah discovered his body later that day when she returned to their home. The album was released two months later. Obviously, it would be their last and, eventually, New Order was given birth to.
Opener ‘Atrocity Exhibition‘ was arguably the most fractured thing the band had yet recorded, Bernard Sumner’s teeth-grinding guitar and Stephen Morris’ Can-on-speed drumming making for one heck of a strange start. Keyboards also took the fore more so than ever – the drowned pianos underpinning Curtis’ shadowy moan on ‘The Eternal‘, the squirrelly lead synth on the energetic but scared-out-of-its-wits ‘Isolation‘, and above all else ‘Decades‘, the album ender of album enders. And then there’s songs like ‘Heart and Soul‘ and especially the jaw-dropping, wrenching ‘Twenty Four Hours‘, are perfect demonstrations of the tension/release or soft/loud approach as will ever be heard; even more perfect given that nobody is even here yet and I can listen to it as loud as I like. One has to wonder what the band would have gone on to accomplish had Curtis decided not to dangle himself from his belt strap from the kitchen cupboards.
It may be a rather morose way to start the day but, finally, after years of not getting it…I “get it”. And it’s awesome.