Anyone writing about New Order is obliged to begin by writing about Joy Division. That is especially true in this case.
As a teenager growing up in Rochester, I thought of Joy Division as the band with the beautifully austere album covers that cooler kids listened to. I was not that cool, and I still have a hard time making it through an entire album. But as an adult, it isn’t because the music is over my head—it’s because the gloom and sadness is so thick. And it is beautiful, this gloom and sadness, even when it’s coupled with a manic adrenaline. A good example of that coupling can be found in this live clip of “She’s Lost Control.”
The guitar is playing a rhythm part, while the bass playing is unusually melodic. The beat is both robotic and frenzied; the drummer is playing acoustic drums, but all most of us hear is that beautiful Synare 3 handclap. And the singer’s voice is so low, both tonally and emotionally, that it walks the line between sublime and embarrassing like a tightrope. And his dancing seems all too appropriate for a song about losing control.
This was one of many fascinating musical directions that the British took when punk fizzled out in the late 1970’s.—much more musically ambitious but just as bleak as anything from the Sex Pistols, with a serious debt to the work of German electronic music pioneers like Kraftwerk. You could slam to some of it, you could do a kind of Goth vogueing to the rest of it, or you could do what singer Ian Curtis did and dance in a way inspired by the epileptic seizures that plagued him in real life. Continue reading