Tag Archives: Joy Division

Song of the Day: “Day of the Lords” – Joy Division

Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures is always a great album to break out in the fall. Even though much of the music is played with a with a sort of menace, Martin Hannet’s production creates an eerie atmosphere. The use of space and overall feeling of the performance is just as important as the songs. You put on Unknown Pleasures and you can feel the daylight fading early: the last rays of the sun closing down over the horizon.

I always think of Bernard Sumner’s guitar on Unknown Pleasures playing as a sort of slowed down version of James Williamson’s fiery slash, best evident on Raw Power. Raw Power is of course, the sound of the apocalypse reigning down all around with Iggy front and center, reveling in the destruction and hedonism. Unknown Pleasures is the album for the aftermath.

My favorite track on the album has always been “Day of the Lords”. It’s the song that made me fully appreciate the album and believe the hype and mythology surrounding Joy Division. There’s not much structure to the song other than dissonant noise courtesy of Sumner’s controlled feedback. The sludgy feeling of the song only heightens the tension of Ian Curtis’ bloodcurdling cries of “where will end?”

 

Song of the Week: “Age of Consent” – New Order

If I’m being totally honest, I’ve never really given New Order a fair chance.  I like Joy Division too much, and thus any music made afterwards is automatically inferior.   Whether or not this is justified, I’m not entirely sure.

“Age of Consent” is one of the few songs I’ve heard by New Order that actually stands up to the standards of Joy Division.  Like many of Joy Division’s best songs, the song is driven by a melodic and pulsing bass line courtesy of Peter Hook.  Stephen Morris’ tight energetic drumming meshes perfectly with Hook’s bass.  I’ve always felt that these two were among the most under-rated rhythm sections in rock and “Age of Consent” is further proof of their talents.

What really makes “Age of Consent” is interesting is the tension between the synthesizers and the rest of the band.  Naturally, the synth plays a huge part of the song and provides much of the song’s hook but mid-way through there’s some noisy guitar work that fights for it life to be heard.  Hook and Morris’ playing provides a rhythm that makes you want to dance, but off kilter just enough so “rock” fans wouldn’t feel alienated.  Lots of other people would try and make similar songs, but “Age of Consent” is one of their few instances where new-wave pop and rock met gloriously.

New Music: “Dark Days” – Cygnets (Review)

Cygnets’ second album Dark Days sounds as if the band were listening to a whole lot of Depeche Mode, Joy Division, and The Smiths.  Tightly controlled drum-beats, throbbing bass-lines and synthesizer hooks are a way of life all across Dark Days.

Just like the songs of their heroes, Dark Days is full of songs of despair and dread.  Even the titles alone give a sense of self-impending doom: “Leave the Prophets Where They Lie”, “We Will Become Enemies”, “Dread City”.   It only takes lead singer Logan Turner four tracks in to cry out to Judas, the ultimate character of betrayal and remorse.    Later on “Dark Romantic” – in a clear nod to “Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” – Turner  wonders: “If they tear us apart, what will bring us together?”  In the next line, he not only answers it but is intent on taking his love with him by stating, “together we’ll know failure.”

Unlike a lot of bands that use The Smiths and Joy Division as a template, Cygnets actually make you believe the sadness and despair within the songs, which is no easy feat.

 

Check out the band here: http://www.cygnetsnotswans.com/

Friday News Round-Up: Joy Division Vs. Disney, Miles Davis & The Post Office, Fiona Apple

  • Perhaps by now you’ve seen the infamous Disney t-shirts which have “been inspired” by the Joy Division classic Unknown Pleasures.  At first, I thought the idea was awful and insulting to the legacy of the band.  Now, I find the concept extremely hilarious. Surely, Disney hasn’t heard the lyrics: “I’ve seen the nights, filled with bloodsport and pain, and the bodies obtained, the bodies obtained” from Day of the Lords from that album?  Or have they?  At any rate, two days after Disney put up the images of the shirts, the company said they were pulling them. The best reaction came from Joy Division bassist Peter Hook  (who is also suing New Order the band formed in the wake of Joy Division’s demise) who said this to Rolling Stone: “You never know, this might be just the thing that brings me, Bernard and Stephen together to have a laugh and a drink. And maybe Walt can achieve what no amount of people seem to be able to do in the world, and bring Joy Division back together.”  Personally, I think that if the dead Walt Disney himself  can bring back Ian Curtis who is also dead that would be more newsworthy than Joy Division getting back together.
  • The US Postal Service has announced that they will be issuing a commemorative Miles Davis stamp sometime in 2012. I love Miles, but damn, don’t you have more important things to worry about than a stamp Post Office?
  • Roxy Music’s 40th anniversary is coming up, so in celebration the band is prepping a massive career-spanning box-set which includes all 8 of their albums re-mastered as well as b-sides, remixes and out-takes.  Check out the full track-listing here.
  • LMFAO will apparently appear with Madonna at the Superbowl according to will.i.am.  I’m not a huge Madonna fan (though some of her songs in the 80s were good), but when you’re Madonna do you really need the current trends to back you up?
  • And finally, looks like Fiona Apple will be releasing a new album this year.  Her first since 2005’s Extraordinary Machine.

Is David Bowie the Gateway Musician to Weirdness?

Like many kids born in the 1980s, my first introduction to David Bowie was through the movie Labyrinth. Without knowing much about him, even at a young age I knew the dude who played Jareth the Goblin King was plain weird. This was the first time I became exposed to extremely tight pants on a man. If you ask many people about the movie now, they’ll probably tell you with a slight bit of disgust that the scene where Jareth throws the baby up in the air, which exposed more of Bowie than Mick Jagger on the cover of Sticky Fingers, is forever cemented in their brain.

So yes, for a good decade that what was came to mind whenever I thought of David Bowie. That all changed one Christmas when my older brother Pete bought me a copy of Bowie’s famous best of collection, Changesonebowie. The songs that were on it were unlike anything I had ever heard.  They were flashy, explicit, down-right bizarre at times but also undeniably cool. The character of Ziggy Stardust sounded tragic – “making love with his ego, Ziggy sucked up into his mind” – but Bowie made him sound like the most bad-ass rock star that ever lived even if he was fictional. “Heroes” was cold and metallic sounding, but Bowie’s gorgeous voice on the track pulled you in.

With the exception of perhaps Queen or Elton John, Bowie is rock’s most accessible weirdo. He dressed in strange costumes, sang about finding other guys attractive, created fictional rock stars that were more fascinating than many real ones, but many of his songs catchy enough to get mainstream attention. Who else can make a hook out of “hey man!”, making the trappings of fame so fun?

As much as I love Bowie, his greatest contribution to my musical life has been introducing me to even weirder and stranger artists who I love even more. It’s been said that marijuana is a gateway to harder drugs. Bowie is rock music’s gateway to more experimental, strange and less accessible music. Without being exposed to Bowie’s experimental album Low – a gift from my sister, which I absolutely hated at first – I would have never made the left turn to discover such albums as Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, Roxy Music’s For Your Pleasure, or Iggy Pop’s The Idiot, or The Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat.  Bowie’s theatrics and sexual imagery suddenly didn’t seem so outlandish when compared with the dark, druggy imagery found on the Velvet Underground’s noisy 17 minute “Sister Ray”.

Without David Bowie, who know whats rock music would be like? It would certainly be a lot tamer, that’s for sure. Almost any artist who is a little bit left of center owes him a huge credit. Even newer arty bands such as Arcade Fire and TV on the Radio take cues from his book.  And hopefully, for my generation he’ll be remembered for his music more than the Goblin King.

The Hundred Days Recall 80s Dance Rock. Exclusive Interview

San Francisco band The Hundred Days has just released their debut album, Really? August 16th, 2011.  Really? recalls The Killers Hot Fuss-era, Franz Ferdinand, as well as British post-punk bands Echo and The Bunnymen, and The Cure and Joy Division.

 Really? was produced by Michael Patterson (Beck, Ladytron, She Wants Revenge) and Nic Jodoin (Great Northern).  Lead single “Sex U” has generated some a lot of buzz, with NME recently calling it “one of the 10 Best Free MP3s”. 

 Here’s an exclusive interview with the band. 

 You guys locked yourself in a house until you found “the perfect formula”. What’s the story behind this? How did you meet and decide on this dance-rock hybrid?

 We met each other at a party and just got talking about music and found that we had a lot in common.  Not too much, where we would just pat each other on the back all night, but enough where we wanted to play together.  When we got together, there were immediate sparks.  A lot of what makes a good band or a girlfriend or whatever is luck – the right person at the right time.

Jimmy Chen, you’ve described the band as a clash of ideas and that the tension drives the band. Do you guys all collaborate on songs, or does one person bring one idea to the table and go from there?

Yes, a lot of what we write comes from just jamming early in the rehearsal, when our ears are fresh. We record everything and just glean for gems afterwards. When we don’t know what we are playing yet, we really listen to each other very hard. If someone makes a small rhythm change in their part, we all immediately react. The smallest rhythm change in the phrasing can make the difference between cool and corny.

You guys are from San Francisco. Yet there definitely seems to be a huge British post-punk influence throughout, Really? What British bands inspire you?  There seems to be a moody influence like Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen.

We definitely have a love of English bands in common – old and new.  Its part of what drew us together. We have a moody side to us and we also love to just have a good time – like everyone else.

Dance-rock seems to have exploded in the past few years. Do you see it is as a reaction to the negative events in the world, or a musical reaction to the angst of grunge?

It’s definitely a reaction to both, but you can never predict how people will react – whether it’s to reflect what is going on or to drive you the opposite way.

Really? Seems to work really well as album – rather than a mere collection

of songs. It seems like a complete thought. All of the songs could be singles. What was your mindset going into making Really?

Thanks!  Yes, we wanted every song to be able to stand on its own.  We grew up with albums but now with singles downloads, we definitely kept that in mind as well.

What was your reaction to having NME name “Sex U” as one of the 10 Best Free MP3s”? They have a long legacy.

We are obviously very flattered.  Thank you NME!

You guys are touring The West Coast now and are planning an East Coast Tour. What are your plans after that? What do you hope to achieve with Really? Any thoughts for the next album, or are you taking it one step at a time?

I hear them talking about going back to the UK afterwards but haven’t heard any firm details yet. Our goals are just to keep making music that we love and bring it to as many people as possible.  Anything above that is just the cherry on top.  We have just been trying to get this album out but we have already started kicking around some ideas.

http://www.thehundreddays.com/

Songs With Memorable Bass Lines

 

Joy Division – “Love Will Tear Us Apart”

Joy Division’s most well known song is icy and oddly enough, the closest the band ever came to being accessible. Ian Curtis’ singing is distant and sparse and the synthesizers in the background (which replicate Curtis’ harmony) only add to the eeriness of the song. The rhythm section however, takes no prisoners. Stephen Morris pounds his way through the song with an urgency in direct opposition to Curtis’ monotone vocals. Bass players usually tend to anchor the song, but on “Love Will Tear Us Apart” Peter Hook steers the song. The opening swirl of Hook’s bass pulls the listener in and prepares them for Curtis’ tale of desperation. As the bass bounces in and of the speaker, it becomes the only inviting sound in an otherwise chilling song.

Kings of Leon – “McFearless”

On the first few Kings of Leon albums Jared Followill proved himself to be the unsung hero of the band playing his bass like it was a lead instrument. Never one to be content in the background, Followill turns it up ever further on “McFearless” with a loud and fuzzy bass-line. Playing it more like a guitar riff, the bass propels the song into a distorted groove allowing Matthew Followill to try his best at sounding like The Edge, and Nathan Followill to give an unorthodox and frantic beat.

Sly & The Family Stone – “Thank You (Fahletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”

This absurdly titled song has one of the greatest bass riffs ever, and is sometimes considered to be one of the first funk songs. Larry Graham’s slap bass here is instantly recognizable, blasting in and out of the speakers in a hummable melody. What’s really amazing about Graham’s playing here is the space between the notes. While his playing is certainly the star of the show here, it never overshadows the rest of the song.

The Beatles – “I Want (She’s So Heavy)”

Paul McCartney is such a brilliant songwriter, it’s sometimes easy to forget how great of a bass player he really is. While the song is probably most famous for its ending, McCartney’s breaks in the middle of the verses are the stuff of legend. While the chorus and the ending are among the loudest stuff the Beatles recorded, the verses find them at their jazziest and loosest with McCartney taking the reins. Check out the lengthy instrumental section mid-way through the song for proof.

Modest Mouse – “Fire It Up”

“Fire It Up” is one of the standout tracks from Modest Mouse’s massively under-rated We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Eric Judy’s bass takes center stage here providing a slick groove that Modest Mouse is not usually known for.  Whether or not the song is about weed or not, it’s hard not to get caught up in Issac Brock’s chants. The closest the band gets to be catchy since “Float On”.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Funky Monks”

Flea has written so many classic bass lines that it’s hard to pick one as his best. For me, this one has always stood out. It’s the perfect balance between his slap-happy bass of the early days, and melodic. It’s also one of the funkiest songs ever recorded by a rock group. Flea’s playing is so goo that John Frusiciante is forced to mimic it throughout most of the song. As the song draws to its conclusion, Flea’s takes over the song, forcing Frusciante and Chad Smith to the backseat.

The Who – “The Real Me”

This might be the finest bass performance in the history of rock. As Pete Townshend and Keith Moon thrash away with all of their might, Entwistle’s fluid and commanding playing destroys everything in its path no matter how hard Moon and Townshend try. What makes his playing so unique here, is its existence inside the rhythm while simultaneously acting as the lead instrument. Impressive stuff.

10 Glaring Omissions From The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame

The rock and roll hall of fame is known for excluding numerous bands and artists over the years.  Here’s a list (in no particular order) of artists that are eligible, but currently not in the hall of fame.

Joy Division

With just two albums Joy Division influenced generations of artists from the early U2 records to The Killers.  Emerging from the punk scene, they were one of the first groups of that era to take the lo-fi esthetic of punk and emphasize mood and texture rather than sheer energy and bombast.  Ian Curtis’ cold baritone and lyrical fascination with isolation and despair  was a perfect mix for the icy, atmospheric music found throughout Unknown Pleasures and Closer.   And no matter what you think of the genre, it’s hard to think of Emo existing without Joy Division.

Television

Television more or less invented post-punk taking cues from the Velvet Underground.  even though they began their career just as the punk scene was beginning to explode in New York City in the mid 70s.  Guitarists Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd circumvented the traditional roles of lead and rhythm guitar, specifically on such songs as “Marquee Moon”, which often led the rhythm section of Fred Smith and Billy Ficca to anchor the songs.  What’s even more profound is the lack of blues influences, which even the more avant-garde and wild groups (like The Velvet Underground) had used as a blue-print.  While U2’s The Edge gets most of the credit to popular audiences for the extensive use of delay pedals, Verlaine was perhaps the first to really explore it.

Brian Eno

To many Brian Eno is just the guy who worked with U2, David Bowie and Coldplay.  As a producer and a member of Roxy Music, he certainly deserves recognition, but his solo albums have proved to be extremely influential as well helping to popularize minimalism.  Eno is often credited with coining the term (and also creating) “ambient music” – low volume music which is meant to change the listener’s perception of the environment around them.  His collaboration with David Byrne  1981’s My Life in the Bushes was one of the first records with extensive use of sampling.

Gram Parsons

There are so many alt-country artists on the scene, that it can sometimes be hard to distinguish what exactly constitutes the term.  But Gram Parsons was a true pioneer.  He welded together his love for traditional Country & Western into the emerging rock scene in a way that was not only groundbreaking, but also respectful to its original source. Country-rock never sounded as glorious as it does on GP and Grievous Angel.  While Parsons never had huge success, his influence can be felt on many records by The Rolling Stones, The Black Crowes, Ryan Adams and Wilco among countless others.

Toots and the Maytals

Bob Marley is more universally known, why omit Toots and the Maytals, one of the key artists in reggae?  They might not have had the big names songs that the wanna-be white dude with dreads plays in his dorm, but they might be more consistent.   The band had some of the best harmonies found in reggae, particularly on such as “Sweet and Dandy” the immortal “Pressure Drop”.  It also doesn’t hurt that Toots Hibbert has often been called a Jamaican Otis Redding for his soulful, tender vocals.

Emylou Harris

Emylou Harris has one of the best voices in rock and country music that is gut-renching and aching as it beautiful and angelic. So it’s no wonder she has been a go-to back up singer for artists such as Gram Parsons, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Warren Zevon, John Denver, and Ryan Adams among others.  Like her mentor Gram Parsons, Emylou Harris helped make traditional country cool for a rock audience.  And like many of those artists, Harris has a restless musical soul with consistently great records (Elite Hotel and Luxury Liner in particular).

Son House (Early Influence)

Thankfully the Rock Hall inducts early influences from artists who pre-dated rock and roll.  If you can include Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker and Lead Belly where the hell is Son House? Torn between his spiritual upbringing (he grew up wanting to be a preacher) and the secular and profane delta music, Son House embodied the Blues like no one else before or since.  Son House’s rhythms provided blueprint for hundreds of artists Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson to most recently The White Stripes.

The Faces

While The Faces aren’t as well known (or influential) as The Rolling Stones, they’re torn from the same cloth.  If you want dirty, sloppy rock and roll for a bad-ass party, The Faces are an essential soundtrack.  And like The Stones, you can feel the sweat and sheer joy from the performance. It’s hard not to want to get up and dance when listening to songs like “Stay With Me” and “Too Bad”.  A Nod Is As Good as a Wink To a Dead House is an undisputed classic in straight-up rock and roll boogie.  It’s also proof that, despite his cheesiness now, Rod Stewart was once pretty fantastic.

The Smiths

If you can include R.E.M. in the Rock Hall, you also have to include their British contemporaries, The Smiths.  Like Peter Buck, The Smith’s guitarist Johnny Marr favored a clear ringing style of guitar that was under-stated but brilliant.  The Smiths’ jangled, melodic, alternative rock with Morrisey’s articulate and literate crooning style was a direct anthesis to the synth-pop that was over-taking the British music scene at the time.   Like Joy Division, The Smiths had a huge influence on Emo, providing the soundtrack for many alienated and confused teenagers.

Harry Smith (Non-performer)

It’s hard to over-estimate the importance of The Anthology of Folk American Folk Music (aka The Harry Smith Anthology).  Prior to this collection, many of these recordings would otherwise go unnoticed and be lost in time.  The Blues, Folk and Bluesgrass music culled from Depression-Era America, directly resulted in the Folk-Revival off the late 50s and early 60s.  Simply put, without Smith’s archival the Coffeehouse perfomances in Greenwich Village probably wouldn’t have existed.  And who can imagine music without that?

5 Great British Bands That Go (Mostly) Unnoticed In the US

“Laid” by James just randomly played on my computer and my girlfriend demanded to know why I purchased that “stupid song from American Pie”.   I told her I actually have 5 songs from James.  To the US audience, much like Blur (who’s only stateside hit is “Song 2” aka “Woo hoo!”), James is considered a one-hit wonder.  But in Britain they were part of the Manchester scene (the UK equivalent of the US’ musical 90s Mecca Seattle) and put out a total of 12 albums since 1986.  Not bad for a band that is only known for “one song” in the US.

James and Blur aren’t the only bands to achieve commercial and artistic success in the UK, only to remain relatively unknown in the US.  So here’s my list of 5 great British bands that Americans don’t pay enough attention to.

Joy Division

Another band from Manchester.  Joy Division are perhaps best known for “Love Will Tear Us Apart” which came out after their lead singer Ian Curtis died.  Joy Division are one of rock’s most important bands – they’re practically the inventors of post-punk.  Joy Division were one of the first groups that took punk’s DIY ethics and lo-fi techniques and place the emphasis on mood and atmospherics rather than straight up aggression and anger.

The Smiths

Without a doubt, The Smiths were the most important alternative rock band of the 80s (with the exception of R.E.M.).  Morrissey was a highly intellectual and literate lyricist whose lyrics are most often associated with loneliness and isolation, but he could also be a keen social critic as well (“Panic”, “The Queen is Dead”, and “Sweet and Tender Hooligan”).   Johnny Marr is a widely underrated guitarist, and his ringing chords provided the backdrop for the Smith’s unique take on rock with a pop sensibility.  Stateside, they are probably best known for “How Soon Is Now?” which is a great song, but not representative of their sound.

The Faces

The Faces are probably best known at least in the US as “band that Rod Stewart used to sing with” or “that band that Ronnie Wood was in before he was in The Rolling Stones”.  The Faces songs were sloppy, and dirty much like The Rolling Stones in a certain way.  But while The Rolling Stones became the target of many punk bands for their overblown image, many punk bands often cited the Faces as a direct influence.

The Kinks

The Kinks are probably best remembered in the US for “You Really Got Me”.   Although they normally get placed in with the “British Invasion” wave of the early 60s, The Kinks incorporated pop, country, R&B, folk and blues into their sound.  The riff of The Who’s “I Can’t Explain” is almost a direct rip-off a Kinks song.  The Kinks influence can be heard in the songs of the The Clash, The Ramones, the Jam, and Oasis.

The Clash

To the US audience, the Clash are mostly known for “Should I Stay or I Should I Go?” or “Rock the Casbah”.  But with the dynamic Joe Strummer at the helm, The Clash were one “the CNN of music”.  They were political and intelligent.  And they can could take on almost any musical style and make it their own as witnessed on 1979’s London Calling. If both Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen cover your songs, that should say something about The Clash’s influence.

Bowie Collaborations: “Wake Up” With Arcade Fire

Back in 2005, Arcade Fire was your favorite artist’s favorite new band.  U2 regularly played “Wake Up” as the song they walked on the stage to during their Vertigo Tour.  Not only did they also open for U2 as the tour progressed, they also came on stage with the band to play Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.   David Bowie regularly talked Arcade Fire up as his favorite new band, and Funeral’s sound owed a lot to The Thin White Duke.

Songs such as “Neighbor Hood # 1” and “Rebellion (Lies)” reminded me structurally of “Heroes” when I first heard them.  All of those songs start out slow, and slowly build into a crescendo – but there’s never a specific moment when you can pinpoint exactly where this takes place. The songs take you for a ride, and before you’ve even realized it you’ve hit 90 mph.

It’s little wonder then that Arcade Fire would actually team up with Arcade Fire for a few songs.  At the Fashion Rocks show in 2005, Bowie and Arcade Fire performed two Bowie classics (“Five Years & “Life on Mars?”) along with Arcade Fire’s de facto anthem, “Wake Up”.

While it’s clear that “Wake Up” is Arcade Fire’s song, Bowie isn’t just guesting on this version.  The way he takes on the chorus, and much of the lead vocals suggests that he is taking this song back from Arcade Fire, and making it his own.  The version of the other songs aren’t nearly as energetic – Arcade Fire plays the songs well – but Bowie seems to really take on “Arcade Fire”.  It’s almost as if he was suggesting that even Bowie imitators can’t out-due the real thing, even with original songs.

Bowie & Arcade Fire: “Wake Up”