I always have to stop myself when I say I like “all kinds of music”. Because, honestly, that just isn’t true, there is really only one kind of music I like. No, not [just] Black Metal, I’m talking about music in a minor key. I mean, I’m a pretty happy guy, but there is something about sad, sad songs that just does it for me. I don’t dislike Vivaldi’s “Spring” and “Fall”, but I far prefer “Summer” and “Winter” (guess which seasons he writes in a minor key). “Satisfaction” is a fine song, but I’d rather listen to “Paint it Black” any day…you get the idea. Basically, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that sting [of soul crushing sorrow and sadness].
This month on Minor Key Monday I talk about a band I wished someone would have told me about a long time ago:
I still remember the day when I was 9 years old and visited my grandma’s house with my dad. We were looking through his old books and came across his old copy of The Hobbit. He was like “you know, you might want to check this out…I thought it was kind of boring but you might like it.” I remember, after bringing it home and devouring it, being pretty pissed at my dad. Not because he called it boring, I can handle a bit of Tolkien criticism, but rather because he had waited so long to recommend it!
Now, I’m not saying that my discovery of Joy Division like 5 years ago was of similar paradigm shifting importance in my life, but it was similar. I mean, apparently they were kind of popular, and I know a lot of people I knew were at least aware of their songs. So why didn’t anyone say “hey Isley, you’re all gay for sorrow and shit, you should check out Joy Division, they are morose as fuck!”
Anyway, better late than never I guess!
Joy Division was formed in the mid 70s as a “post punk” band (Have I ever mentioned how fucking pretentious it is to use “post” like that? Well it kind of is…and I apologize!) but as their career went on they ended up being a foundational part of the “new wave” genre and almost as unique as The Doors as far as their sound went. Today’s song is off of their last album, released in the aftermath of their singer Ian Curtis’ suicide. Yeah, not surprising that someone whose vocals were that depressing sounding ended up killing himself. It is also probably no surprise that he wrote all of the band’s lyrics like this suitably nihilistic passage from today’s song:
I never realized the lengths I’d have to go,
All the darkest corners of a sense I didn’t know,
Just for one moment I heard somebody call,
Looked beyond the day in hand – there’s nothing there at all.
Uplifting they weren’t. It wasn’t just the vocals; their music on Closer owed a great deal of its melancholy darkness to the painstakingly sparse atmosphere of Martin Hannett’s legendary production. “24 Hours” is another reason I should just admit I like minimal songs–because once again we’ve got a simplistic verse/chorus number for Minor Key Monday. But the way the song morphs between intensity and the simple but effective bass melody while the drums weave their way around everything really is quite brilliant.
Though maybe Curtis had a bigger effect on the dark proceedings than I think. After all, in the wake of Curtis’ death, Joy Division continued on as the much less downbeat New Order. I’ll admit, for a poppy upbeat band, New “Blue Monday” Order was pretty awesome really, but I’d still pick the ironically named Joy Division over New Order any day. Dark hopeless and depressing music…just the way I like it!
Ironically named? Perhaps. They changed their name to Joy Division after the name of the prostitution “division” of Nazi concentration camps, as named in House of Dolls – also “Unknown Pleasures” being their first album played on that. I feel bad though, since I’ve known you for more than five years and I never mentioned Joy Division. I have to take partial responsibility for that. However, really, dude, you had the Internet… c’mon. 🙂