Friday, December 15, 2006

Joy Division

Too cheery this holiday season? Overload of Christmas spirit? Let (the often ironically named) Joy Division give you some emotional resonance and depth, some sense of life's fleeting and flickering beauty.

As so wonderfully chronicled in the movie 24 Hour Party People, Joy Division was the first of many bands (Happy Mondays and Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark are my other favorites) to break out of the industrial wasteland that was Manchester, England in the late 1970s. They represented a turn away from the angry, anti-melodic chops of punk toward a romantic haunted melodic lyrical New Wave pop music revival. Imagine Lord Byron as a rock star and you have Joy Division's lead singer Ian Curtis. All four were impeccable musicians, and put craft before art and art before anger and ennui.

This video was shot in April, 1980 just weeks before Ian Curtis committed suicide, just days after their first record started its long and steady climb up the charts. On the brink of success, he threw it all away. Joy Division reformed as New Order, and continued to make great records for years. Highly recommend the movie, if you're looking for a gem that was mostly overlooked in this country. Curtis is just a bit player in the movie, though. It's more about Tony Wilson, the British TV announcer and club owner who gave birth to the whole post-punk, New Wave and rave scene.


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