Posts Tagged ‘Post-Punk’

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Joy Division – Heart and Soul (Part 2 of 2)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Walk in silence

Don’t walk away, in silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don’t walk away

“Atmosphere”

Joy Division, 1979

I come here to write part two, very tired. It’s almost hard to bring myself to write about Joy Division again, mainly because it is such a heavy story. There’s no way to make light of it. I feel like I touched on all the main points in part one about the band itself. So in this part, I think I will just talk my favorite songs.

Joy Division are unparalleled in creating an atmosphere. The song of the same title, quoted at the top, is one of my favorites by them. It stands out to me, because it is composed in a major key – offering what seems to be the only glimmer of hope in all of Curtis’s lyrics. But, after listening to it, I don’t know if there is any hope at all in it. It’s like two spirits are speaking through it – one of depression, the other of mania.

From Closer, my favorites are probably in the latter half of the album: “Heart and Soul,” “Twenty four hours,” “The eternal,” and “Decades.”

“Heart and Soul” has one of the most killer basslines of any song I’ve ever heard, and if anything, sharpens the intensity and introspection that is the Closer album. The lyrics, especially the second verse, is like being doused in cold water, over and over.

“An abyss that laughs at creation

a circus complete with all fools

Foundations that lasted the ages

Then ripped apart at their roots

Beyond all this good is the terror

The grip of a mercenary hand

When savagery turns all good reason

There’s no turning back, no last stand

Heart and soul, one will burn.”

“Heart and Soul”

If “Heart and Soul” is the cold abyss, then “Twenty four hours” is the fire. In no other song are Joy Division more frenzied, desperate, and shattering than this one. It is interspersed with valleys and exploding mountains of sound, and the constant riffage or the guitar and bass dig at you.

“So this is permanence, love’s shattered pride

What once was innocence, turned on its side

A cloud hangs over me, marks every move

Deep in the memory, of what once was love”

“Twenty four hours”

Closer (1980)

For a while, the following song on the album, “The eternal,” was my favorite Joy Division song. The piano riffing is like something out of a horror film – only the horror isn’t the physical, but the emotional in spirit – a horror on the inside that can never be outrun. This song is the epitome of disconnect – like you are a spirit standing outside your body, watching it die as falling leaves bury it. Wow – that was very dark. Very, very dark. I’m almost embarrassed. Ahem. Anyway, shall we move on?

“No words could explain, no actions determine

Just watching the trees and the leaves as they fall”

“The eternal”

I won’t talk about “Decades”, the final song of Closer, other than that it is a very good song that took a while to grow on me, and that you should listen to it.

“We knocked on the door of Hell’s darker chamber

Pushed to the limit, we dragged ourselves in

Watched from the wings as the scenes were replaying

We saw ourselves now as we never had seen

Portrayal of the trauma and degeneration

The sorrows we suffered and never were free

Where have they been?

Where have they been?

Where have they been?

Where have they been?”

“Decades”

I could go on. As I touched on in part one, Joy Division is a band I will probably listen to for a long time – perhaps even the rest of my life (though most likely in seasons, and not constantly – I don’t think I could handle that). Songs such as “Disorder”, “Day of the Lords”, “Insight”, “New Dawn Fades”, “She’s Lost Control”, “Isolation”, and “Ceremony” will always live with me. I don’t know what it is about this band, about this era, that speaks to me so much. I feel like Ian is a guy who understood a lot – perhaps too much, and it got the better of him. It was like he was collecting weights all his life, and he bore them with a patient smile – until one day, the weights were too much. It’s very sad – unlike other music-related suicides (Kurt Cobain comes to mind), this one seems more tragic and I can’t place my finger on why. All the same, thank you, Ian, thank you, Joy Division, for the great music that will live on through the ages and inspire listeners and musicians alike to great things.

A last thing – getting the Heart and Soul boxed set is definitely worth it. Disc four is really, really interesting to check out in particular. Joy Division, at least to me, were a completely different group live than in the studio. They are more punk, and Ian’s intensity grabs you by the shoulder and shakes you. Even songs I wasn’t to keen on in the studio version are something else entirely in their live versions.

And now, for probably my favorite cover of all time. Because I just had to bring Radiohead into this.

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Joy Division – Heart and Soul (Part 1 of 2)

Monday, May 7, 2012

“Say what you want, time never seems to corrupt the music of Joy Division: the actions, sensations, images, movement all seems to fit into the next moment, the noises and agitation, the courage and diligence, always seems to be happening for the first time. Their music so feverishly conjures up insecurity, malign gods, moral chaos, human lostness, caged energy, loss, shifting meaning and danger that it could never slip back into some cosy version of itself. It could never be stripped of its harrowing power because its crystallisation of moody form and seething content is so classic and universal.”

Paul Morley, “Listen to the Silence”

Unknown Pleasures (1979)

It was fall of 2008, and I was nineteen, when I took the plunge on a whim to buy the entire box set of Heart and Soul, which contained 81 songs, encapsulating most of Joy Division’s output – including alternate recordings and a live CD. I knew nothing of Joy Division then. I listened to a few songs when the set arrived, figured it wasn’t for me, and put it in a box, where it stayed for three years.

Flash forward to summer of 2011. I found the box while searching for something I can’t remember. I put disc two in my car stereo, and went straight to track seven – I knew “Atrocity Exhibition” to be the first song of Closer. What followed was one of those rare moments when you listen to a new album, a new band, and it instantly connects. I could not believe I had listened to this before, three years ago, and decided that it wasn’t for me. This album was me. Or so it seemed at the time.

I listened to Closer, over and over, knowing all the time that I was listening to some of the darkest moments in music I would ever hear. It was only after a while that I seemed to remember that there was this whole other album, Unknown Pleasures, waiting to be listened to.

“I’ve been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand

Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man?

These sensations barely interest me for another day

I’ve got the spirit, lose the feeling, take the shock away – “

“Disorder”

Ian Curtis’s lyrics were always deep, and once unraveled revealed sadness and loss. All I could think at the time was, “how depressing.” Yet I could not stop listening. There was something in the music that I connected to – perhaps the lostness, the questions, the wondering and wandering – with no answer to any of it, and resolving to live with that emptiness.

Musically, Joy Division are quite unique. The spine to their music was the bass. Always the bass. I’ve heard someone say that Joy Division is a bass player’s wet dream. The bass pounds through each song, without apology or frills. It carries the melody to its heights and depths of chaos, from subdued anger to exploding shock. The distorted guitar jangles, never taking over the bass, setting the atmosphere, painting the air for Curtis’s baritone vocals, always desperate, always frenzied, always earnest, always eerily calm and accepting of it all.

Though short-lived, you can hear their influence in U2’s Boy, and further down, Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights, among other artists, from Joy Division. They, in a large way, were a prototype for goth and eighties post-punk and that synthy eighties sound – and even when you delve into the darker corners of disc three, you hear traces of dance and techno in their tracks.

“Guess your dreams always end

They don’t rise up just descend

But I don’t care anymore

I’ve lost the will to want more”

“Insight”

Ian Curtis committed suicide in may of 1980, on the eve of the band’s first American tour. It seems senseless – but he suffered from epilepsy and depression, and had problems in his personal life and his health, both of which he sang about, albeit wrapped in layers. It’s hard to imagine what they would have done, had they made that third album – but what they did in three years most artists could not do in twenty.

None of the songs on Unknown Pleasures has hit me so hard as “New Dawn Fades” When Ian breaks out around minute three with “I’ve walked on water, I’ve run through fire, can’t seem to feel it anymore,” it gives me chills every time. It’s like being in space, watching the Earth distance itself as you fly off, never to return into the darkness. It is about losing touch with your humanity, your emotions, screaming and yet not being heard in the vacuum of your thoughts and internal world. I don’t know if that is what Ian was actually singing about – maybe it’s what I’m putting on him from my own life and thoughts. It is amazing to me that, after all these years, after he died eight years before I was even born, I can still know at least a part of who he was through Joy Division’s music.

Heart and Soul (1997)

In a way, Ian’s death might have set a false tone for the band, in that everyone looks back at all his songs and say it’s about suicide. There’s more to Ian and Joy Division than suicide, and there’s more to Joy Division that Ian Curtis. For me, it is the music that will live on. Twenty years from now, I will probably still listen to Joy Division. Twenty years from now, people will still listen to Joy Division and discover Ian and his honesty. Joy Division really are timeless – great music always transcends the time in which it was composed, even if it carries the trappings of that time. Perhaps more than any other band, Ian’s lyrics have given voice to things I have felt and wondered but never dared say aloud. I suspect that Joy Division is not easily understood by most (but I might be wrong about that), until you have understood yourself and the questions you ask – the questions that you know have no satisfying answer, no answer but poetic silence – a silence that can either calm you, or drive you mad. I don’t know why, but I sense that struggle in Joy Division – the struggle for meaning. It is very refreshing, and cleansing, in a way, that there is a band out there that gave words and music to that struggle so poignantly.

Joy Division – we were strangers for way too long.

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Talking Heads – Fear of Music

Thursday, September 1, 2011
Fear of Music (1979)

Fear of Music (1979)

This album is absolutely brilliant. Fantastic. Magical. AMAZING.

It’s 1979, and nothing sounds like this. It’s 2011, and still nothing sounds like this. I don’t know much about the Talking Heads, but this might be the most amazing album ever?

I really have no idea what the lyrics are talking about, but it’s the music itself that I love. David Byrne’s vocals compliment the jumpy, upbeat, and psychotic background. Every song is catchy in its unique way.

Okay, so I just started listening to this, so honestly I haven’t got much to say except…get this album! It has infected me, in a good way.

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Sonic Youth – EVOL

Friday, August 19, 2011

EVOL (1986)

Sonic Youth is the only band I’ve driven over three hours to see, by myself. I hate driving, and I hate being by myself, so that speaks volumes for how much I adore this band. I waited anxiously for the band to begin – I was going crazy with no one to talk to. Just as I started to wonder if I had made a mistake, the band came on. The first few strains of “Tom Violence” shook the entire room, all doubt was dispelled. Seeing Sonic Youth live was a treat – especially when they closed with “Cross the Breeze.”

I can’t exactly remember the first time I listened to EVOL. I must have been a sophomore or junior in college. It didn’t strike me immediately, as did Daydream Nation or Sister. It was definitely a grower. But this is a psychotic and edgy trip. It’s like Sister, but rawer.  The lyrics are just as fascinating as the perfect blend of melody and noise. They could just be read for their own sake=. As the album title suggests,  a sense of foreboding and doom hangs over the whole album,  like there’s a horror movie going on in your mind, like an eighteen wheeler bearing down on you, but your frozen in place, like a vampire hypnotizing you before it bites into your neck. This album is a storm.

Every song on the album is good and worth listening to. “Shadow of a Doubt” is an absolute masterpiece, a bipolar trip that shifts between chilling guitar plucking and piano to a release of screaming and guitar riffage. “In the Kingdom” completely defies me to explain – it would probably take me another two hours to just write two sentences that can somewhat accurately describe the song.

There are so many intricate details that you could listen to this forty times and still pick out something new – and that, at least, is what has kept me coming back, much like all of Sonic Youth’s stuff I’ve had the pleasure of listening to.

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The Cure – Disintegration

Friday, September 3, 2010

Disintegration (1989)

[This article was first published on Blogcritics. To see the original article, click here.]

What does a twenty two year old have to say about an album that should be “before his time?”

Hopefully, enough to write a review to do it honor.

Disintegration is one of the those rare albums that just reached out of the speakers and grabbed me instantly, so much so that 1989 might as well have been yesterday. The last time  an album affected me so was probably Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot back in 2007.

It was probably two in the morning when I had my first Disintegration listening. If it had my attention by “Plainsong”, I was completely hooked by “Pictures of You.” I rocked to the energetic “Fascination Street” and slowed to the the Gothic groove, “Prayers for Rain.”

By the time the album finished, it was probably 3:30 in the morning. But I didn’t go to bed. I stayed up the rest of the night listening to it.

Listening to Disintegration is like swimming through water. The water is often cold and deep. For some it might not be easy to listen to. The music is thick. Yet Robert Smith’s lyrics float above this tapestry of guitars and strings and pounding drums. The effect is quite hypnotic and joyous, in a way.

But the music itself strikes a deep chord of sadness. The album begins with the wordless “Plainsong”. From its first notes, I knew Disintegration would be a great and rare album. The songs really dance a line between being rock and being symphony.

Disintegration emphasizes speaking through music rather than just through words. Track two, “Pictures of You”, is practically a perfect song. It’s simple, laid back, and catchy. The guitar strumming, harmonizing, and the drumming carry the song for about a full two minutes until Smith begins singing.

I’m usually pretty harsh on lyrics – even in great music, many songwriters, sadly, don’t know how to write. But in this song, the lyrics are simple and well-done – especially when coupled with the music that adds so much weight to the words. I don’t think there is anyone who couldn’t relate to “if only I’d thought of the right words, I wouldn’t be breaking apart.”

But the soul of Disintegration, for me, is “The Same Deep Water As You”. If a lot of the album sounds like you are underwater, this song sounds like you’re at the bottom of the ocean, with a storm and thunder raging above the waves. The music and lyrics conjure images of physical drowning to describe the feeling of being over-infatuated with a person – to be drowning in them. The song is one of the most dark and haunting songs I’ve heard – and to some extent, even horrifying, as there is no hint of light at the end of the tunnel.

Most of Disintegration is this way. It doesn’t pretend to offer easy answers, and Plant isn’t afraid of describing his reality as he sees it. From the album title itself, Disintegration gives an image of falling apart. If you can stand the heavy themes, the music itself is almost perfect. From a musical standpoint, everything about Disintegration is top tier.

You will be hard-pressed to find an album similar to this one, and there is no doubt in my mind that this is one of the greatest albums of all time. But I could easily see how people could get lost in music like this and wallow in negative feelings it is saturated with.

So with that small warning, I recommend Disintegration to anyone who hasn’t yet heard it. The Cure have a vast discography, and there is no better place to start than here.

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Sonic Youth – Sister

Monday, March 30, 2009
Sister (1987)

Sister (1987)

[This review originally appeared on Blogcritics. To see it there, click here.]

It’s 1987 and a new force is taking over music. Since the early eighties, Sonic Youth had been gaining steam in the noise and alternative scene, and in 1991 all it took is the spark of Nirvana to set the revolution off. But four years before that fateful event changed the alternative dream forever, Sonic Youth released Sister, continuing in the vein of their previous releases of EVOL and Bad Moon Rising by experimenting, ironically, by making their music catchier and more accessible.

But don’t make the mistake by thinking this is an easy album to listen to.

Sister is absolutely brilliant and should not by any measure be taken lightly. I almost want to say “shame on you” to all the owners of Daydream Nation that have yet to dive back into Sonic Youth’s catalog and explore this album of utter, psychotic brilliance.

Speaking of psychotic, the album kicks off with the rocking opener, “Schizophrenia,” a trippy dirge of alternate guitar tunings and strange chords that give its driving beat a sort of madness. Despite being off-putting, “Schizophrenia” is also eerily calming. I can’t really do it justice by mere explanation – the song is absolutely brilliant.

“(I Got A) Catholic Block” is, hands down, one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard. Its angry, honest, and I want to even say primeval sounding, because it somehow touches something deep and instinctual, repressed since the dawn of human consciousness. If I could use one word to describe the song, it would probably just be “intense,” as cliche and overused that word is used to describe music. Anyway, just like the first song, I feel like I’m failing miserably at describing its greatness.

Track four, “Stereo Sanctity” is yet another highlight of Sister. Like “Catholic Block,” it has an eerie, intense, driving beat that makes me feel fire in my belly, but if you were to ask me why it did, I wouldn’t be able to explain. Sonic Youth is, to me, more intense than any metal music out there. Though it’s not as heavy, just what they do with their notes and their blasts of noise just sort of throws me off and shakes my perception of how I see things. Any music like that entrances me.

Probably the most ethereal song on the album is track seven, “Pacific Coast Highway.” Kim Gordon does well here – most of the songs she writes for the band don’t really do it for me, but she has her occasional moments of brilliance. “Pacific Coast Highway” is one example of that. Starting off hard and intense, it eases and slows, then going back to its original intensity. It’s just a cool song.

Love it or hate it, there’s a song after “Pacific Coast Highway” called “Hot Wire My Heart” that is a demented sort of pop. I like the song, but at first couldn’t really recognize whether or not it was even music. Sonic Youth has that effect on me.

I’ve only gone through some of the highlights of Sister, but it’s a great listen and will probably surprise and maybe even scare you. Sister is considered by many to be Sonic Youth’s best, Daydream Nation or no. I prefer just to let each album stand on its own – they are both just different manifestations of the same creative genius that is Sonic Youth.

Regardless, picking this album up would be a great investment in great music, great music meaning chaotic and noisy while still having the hooks that makes it catchy in some strange messed up way.

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Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation

Monday, February 23, 2009
Daydream Nation (1988)

Daydream Nation (1988)

I admit lately that I’ve been having a slight fetish for the classics. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

Alright, if you’re reading this review and you’ve never heard of Sonic Youth, I’m jealous of you. Why, you ask? Because you have an oppurtunity I don’t have anymore, and that’s discovering this wonderful band. Yeah, that’s right; I’m jealous of you!

If you want to know more about the musicality and themese of this album then this post probably isn’t the place to read. Try the sum of all human knowledge.

I alluded to this album barely in my review of maudlin of the Well’s My Fruit Psychobells, saying something along the lines that Sonic Youth was one of those more chaotic bands that defined my music taste a little over a year ago. For the time, Sonic Youth certainly were chaotic, but I guess by today’s “noise” standards, they’re pretty melodic.

Daydream Nation is a happy medium between Sonic Youth’s chaotic, noiseful past and their more melodic future, which probably peaked from Goo in 1990 to Washing Machine in 1995. 

I didn’t really know all that at the time. I just heard that Sonic Youth were a neat band. Luckily, I was willing to give them a little patience. Being a noise rock virgin, I think that was a necessity. As such, I gradually immersed myself into Daydream Nation, first listening to it as I fell asleep, then picking choice songs on my way to class. Finally, I was listening to the album back to back quite often, leading me to buy Sister, Goo, and Dirty.

Sonic Youth and Daydream Nation are definitely growers. 

“Silver Rocket” is absolutely killer. “Teenage Riot” sucked me into liking the band. “Cross the Breeze,” track four…wow. Amaaazing. “Total Trash,” Candle,” and the “Trilogy” also deserve honorable mentions.

Great video below, uber intense stuff.