Every now and then I hear Joy Division’s moody anthemic pop classic, Love Will Tear Us Apart being played in a bar or on radio stations such as Virgin or XFM. Each time I hear it I still get a shiver down my spine; and sometimes, depending on the mood i’m in, a lump in my throat that tastes of nothing at all. Today it is being played on many more radio stations across the UK, probably the world, because Tony Wilson, the man behind Factory Records, has died aged 57.
‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is the darkest, moodiest pop song you will ever hear. Yes it is a pop song. With its catchy lead riff and verse chorus verse chorus structure, it is nothing but a pop song.
The intense lyrics of Ian Curtis was a perfect match for the brooding atmospheric industrial northern post-punk of Joy Division; a band so ingrained in the sign of their times. Joy Division was to many young men of my generation head and shoulders above their contemporaries; and though ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is by far their most commercial song, it still has such a powerful honesty sincerity that flows through both the lyrics and the honesty of their music.
‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ reminds me in many ways of other classic songs worthy of entry here, such as Stairway to Heaven and Bohemian Rhapsody, in that it is such an overplayed record, even today, that its timeless credentials as a classic song are sometimes overlooked, not more so than by Joy Division devotees who all choose lesser known songs when asked to name a favourite track – Atmosphere is mine.
The hard abrasive musical accompaniment to this song is such a perfect match for the naked honesty of a young man whose love life is so painstakingly frozen that he is willing to bare everything for his art. Or like many of Curtis’s deeply poetic lyrics with hindsight is it simply a way of communicating, a cry for help or despair.
With a rude awakening Peter Hook’s low slung unique bass begins an introduction; jagged guitar strums brought together with a pounding snare drum brings it together before the song opens like a beautiful flower in spring.
The synthesizer is used so well to hold the song together; a perfect lead riff. And when Curtis steps up to the mic, it is really hard to remember exactly how powerful and awestruck I was to hear that song for the first time.
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.
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.
Do you cry out in your sleep,
all my failings expose?
Gets a taste in my mouth
as desperation takes hold.
Why is it something so good
just can’t function no more?
Tony Wilson & Ian Curtis – Rest in Peace