I like Joy Division, but like the Smiths I can only listen to them so much at one time. That being said, I can never get enough of “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. It’s one of the defining songs of post-punk and one of the best rock songs ever. The song begins with a hypnotic bass-line that quickly propels the song along held down by mechanic drumming and swirling synthesizers as Ian Curtis sings in a cold, distant voice. Yet, for his cool and removed demeanor, singer Ian Curtis is at his most exposed. “As desperation takes hold,” Curtis sings, “Why is that something so good? Just can’t function no more?” Released just a month before Curtis’ suicide, it’s hard not to look at this song as a suicide note written to music.
This is the sound of a man at the end of his rope. He knows that despite his best attempts, even love (believed by many to be the most powerful force in the world) can no longer keep him at bay. It is in fact the very thing that is driving him away from the person he wants to be, and the woman he wants to be with. And even sadder, is the fact that this has happened before. During the chorus Curtis sings “Love, love will tear us apart.” And then repeats the same words ending the phrase this time with “again”. Any attempt of reconcile is thrown out the door.
Like Elliot Smith, it’s a shame that Ian Curtis was such a tortured soul who created such great music.