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Monday, September 15, 2008


One of my favorite words, "trajectory," ... I love tracing the sometimes non-linear, evolving nature of a thing, be it peoples' biographies, cultural entities like organizations or groups, or simply the sound of a band from one era to another. My latest assignment in the Tart's musical education, Joy Division and New Order. So, you can see why I'm thinking of trajectories right now. Plus, the concept of a trajectory is much more pleasing than that of a descendant or of a derivative which can be very judgmental. Trajectory just implies that something shot off in a direction, not naming the direction or even the force or extent of it's range. Keep that in mind here.

I hadn't listened to New Order's Substance probably since it first came out. The popular tracks were all the rage at parties and in clubs. To be honest, I never knew who the artists were behind "Bizarre Love Triange," "Shame of The Nation," and "Blue Monday." We just danced our asses of to them.

Now, as I listen to Joy Division for the first time, without even knowing the connection between it and New Order, I'm tempted to just turn it off. I can't get through it, I skip ahead in the songs, hoping for something bright. It's not there. My ears hear The Doors all over it. (Oh god, don't fling dead things at me, it's what i hear, ok?!) Without belaboring the point, I'll just throw out my observations to you dogs and see what happens (sorry Pup, I'm desecrating JD with Morrison as we discussed!).
  • Obviously vocally, Ian Curtis in the later years of Joy Division took on a very similar baritone drone.
  • Imagine the organ in The Doors music as two separated components, the upper register covered by the the guitar bits of Joy Division (and the synthesizer, obviously), the lower tones covered by Peter Hook's bass. So that you have a layering in Joy Division's sound over the more simplistic and yet "messy" sound of The Doors.The roots are still exposed however. I totally agree with Puppet Show; The Doors meander while Joy Division is clean and boxy and tight, as any post-punk band should be. But the skeletons of so many tracks are so aligned with each other.
  • Ian Curtis' tragic death and that of Jim Morrison while of course not connected linearly do have a kind of cosmic loose affiliation, no?
Honestly, not having heard Joy Division before, I would place "Colony" as a derivative track, directly in the musical trajectory of The Doors, updated for a 1980s sound. Yes, I'm being judgmental in the case of "Colony." It's too close for my comfort level.

Colony Joy Division Heart And Soul
Means To An End Joy Division Heart And Soul
Strange Days The Doors Best of The Doors

But the real question of the day is how did we get from a song like "Colony" or "Means To An End" to the real pop-flavored stuff on Substance? Obviously there is a huge amount of carry-over, but the change is shockingly abrupt. Or is it just the context I heard it in initially? These are questions a blogger has to ask, our interpretation of music is so very much influenced by our past, is it not?

Call me crazy if you will, but as a new listener to this it's all I got for you today!

True Faith
New Order Substance
Blue Monday New Order Substance

Hey buy all of these great songs, just follow the links!

Yeah, no mp3s for you either, apologies. I'm trying to keep as much RIAA stuff off of this blog as possible. Let me know if the allmusic links work for you, hopefully you can play the songs there, xoxox


mp3hugger said...

Substance was probably the album I listened to the most when I really started to get into alternative music. That and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. Thanks for the memories.

JC said...

How did we get from Joy Division to New Order is a question that has been asked many a time and has indeed been answered collectively and seperately on many occasions by Barney, Hooky and Steven.

If you'll allow me the space......

The leap wasnt as dramatic as it seems. The early NO stuff was very much like JD. Indeed debut single 'Ceremony'(1981) was a JD song.

NO's debut LP 'Movement'(1981) is to all intent and purposes a JD LP with different vocalists (Hooky took lead vocal duties on one track).

It was almost as if that had to be done to exorcise the ghost.

The next step was to move away from working with Martin Hannett (producer of all JD material and the NO debut LP....

The second NO single was called 'Procession'(1981) and while it had some synths on it, it still very much driven along by the bass/drums that had come to represent so many JD songs. The flip side however was 'Everything's Gone Green' which was a sort of prototype for 'Blue Monday.'

The next single was 'Temptation' (1982 - and not the version included on 'Substance') which quite simply, as I've said before, is the best single ever released by any band at any point in history. This was the song that captures NO at that point when they are just about to move out of the shadows of JD....

Blue Monday (1983) followed....and it broke NO in the UK. The LP released around the same time 'Power, Corruption & Lies' had a few songs that still sounded like JD, but mosy were now driven by synths and drum patterns.

Next, the band went to New York, where, like many other early 20-somethings, got hooked on dance music, and were soon working with Arthur Baker who re-worked a song called A-E-I-O-U by Freez into 'Confusion' (1983) which became NO's fourth single....

The band were clearly going dowm the road of making dance music...and the stuff you recall with affection.

The thing to remember is that JD were a product of the post-punk late 70s, while NO were a band shaped and influenced by the 80s - and by that I mean the lifestyle just as much as the music.

They have to be treated as two completely different bands....but believe me there's a lot of great stuff you can dance to with JD.

Does this help??

a Tart said...

Mp3, thanks for stopping by, I'm always glad to share, and Kiss Me was a fantastic one too! xoxo

a Tart said...

JC, for you, all the space you like, thanks so much for the history lesson! And yes, I'm still listening to JD, it's growing on me a bit. That time period from post punk to the "real 80s," the MTV era, was such a chaotic little moment in music history I think.

Or perhaps it was just that way for me; my teen years were spent devouring music, and when New Wave hit the US I was the prime market for it! However unlike my contemporaries, I was always looking back to the 60s and 70s, having much older siblings to thank for that.

You've helped fill in a hole in my experience, thanks xoxo

Highlander said...

'Closer' by Joy Division is, imho, the finest album ever made and has remained at No. 1 spot on the 'Highlander's Favourite Albums Of All Time Made-Up Chart' for a period of many years now.

You will struggle to find 'something bright' (as you put it) in the songs but there are obvious reasons for that. And my wife knows I am on a real downer when JD go on the kitchen CD player. But, in a perverse way, it is uplifting.

And do take the time to read some of the lyrics. They add an additional edge that, if you like, reflects the sound of the music while enhancing the impact of the whole.

a Tart said...

No doubt, Highlander! I've kept JD on my playlist since I wrote this post, it's all definitely growing on me, and you're absolutely right about the lyrics, they're beautifully despondent at times. Thanks for stopping by, xoxo