April 30 marked the 35-year anniversary of Joy Division’s video for “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” in many ways their most defining, and certainly best-known, song.
I discovered their music shortly after the death of singer and lyricist Ian Curtis in 1980, and they’ve been one of my touchstone bands ever since. But I wondered if they were simply a “period” band for people who’d lived through their era, or if their music was still meaningful to younger listeners. Fortunately my friend Anevay Darlington was kind enough to write about her feelings for Joy Division.
I’ve always had pretty unique music tastes for my age group. Instead of crying over One Direction lyrics, I cried over the song, “Piano Man,” by Billy Joel. My musical tastes really started blooming at the age of 11 when I first heard the band Journey. From there, I started an obsession with my 80’s and 90’s music – rap, punk, rock, ska – from A-ha to ZZ Top. I cried listening to The Smiths, fell in love with The Cure, danced to The Specials, questioned Tones on Tail, and then I discovered Joy Division.
I fondly remember the first time I heard Joy Division. I was sitting on the couch listening to Bauhaus on Spotify Radio while doing some homework, and suddenly the song Atmosphere played. The unique sound of Ian Curtis’ deep voice, Steve Morris’ passive drum playing, Peter Hooks’ melodic bass playing, and Bernard Sumner’s chords immediately captivated me; everything in their music just seemed to work, and it was unlike anything I’d ever heard.
Many people call Joy Division one of the original Goth bands because they inspired many Goth bands and had a tendency for gloomy lyrics. In fact, the band was birthed in punk, although they had such talent and harmony that I think they drove past the limitations of punk and their music is in a category of its own.
When I first listened to Joy Division, I didn’t really listen to the lyrics. Later, I listened to the words and realized that they were poetry. This made me respect the band even more.
Joy Division never explained the meaning of the lyrics to the press, and Curtis, the sole lyricist, said, “The lyrics are open to interpretation. They’re multidimensional. You can read into them what you like.”
I have two ways of listening to Joy Division: when I’m in a thoughtful and maybe in a sad mood, I listen to the lyrics and reflect on what they mean to me; and when I’m working I simply listen to the melody. I think it’s amazing that I enjoy the music regardless of the mood I’m in. It’s hard to find a band that’s famous for both its sound and also its words.
Many people call Joy Division a kind of sad teenager band – a band to cry over – but, like John Bush of AllMusic, I think that they are in fact one of the few bands “emphasizing not anger and energy but mood and expression.”
When people learn that I am a fan of Joy Division they either think it’s really cool and agree that it’s a great band, or they say something along the lines of, “but their lyrics are so depressing –why do you listen to them?”
I like and listen to Joy Division because like my musical tastes, they were truly unique – they inspired other great bands such as Bauhaus, U2, and The Cure. Despite making only two albums, and being together for only four years between 1976 and 1980, the members of Joy Division were great musicians who continually inspire me.
Anevay Darlington is a 13- year-old musician, writer, and feminist living in New York City. She studies cello under Isabelle Fairbanks and is part of the SMP Orchestra at Turtle Bay Music School. Anevay is a member of the Trinity Youth Choir. This season, the choir has performed Turbae ad Passionem Gregorianam by Alberto Ginastera at Carnegie Hall, sang with Bobby McFerrin at Trinity Church, and is recording an album of Trevor Weston’s music at Drew University. Anevay has published articles on the Advice Project and Wandering Educators websites, and has had an article reposted to All Digitocracy.