Screw no. 404 ~ Joy Division

No band I can think of achieved what Joy Division achieved. And no band has ever come close to replicating them. They were unique. Born of punk, but somehow even more otherworldly. A digital band in a deeply analogue age. Ultra-modern, outward looking technologically and musically, but at the same time embodying the spirit of a glamour free industrial northwestern English city at the turn of the 1970’s. I haven’t listened to them properly for almost 20 years, but last night BBC4 showed a wonderfully intimate and detailed documentary, as simply titled as this post. And it brought it all back. The driving drums of Stephen Morris; Peter Hook’s vital and unforgettable bass lines; Bernard Sumners simple and elegant guitar riffs; and Ian Curtis, well, what can you say about that voice; that stage presence; those lyrics; that pain, illness, suffering and ultimately that tragic and avoidable death. Yes, there have been more popular bands. Yes, there have been better bands. But there have been few as important, few as influential, and few who could so effectively shake you to your core. I think the word I’m looking for is ‘impact’. You hear those songs and you know all about it.

Formed in 1976 as Warsaw, their more conventional initial punk sound gave way to their unique blend of memorable melodies and epic, dark, almost industrial production, layered over with some of the most evocative and worryingly helpless lyrics ever penned in popular music. Ian Curtis’ wife Deborah published her book “Touching from a Distance” in 1995 and it contains all of his lyrics at the end. There is little optimism or even defiance evident in any of his words. I reproduce a verse from “She’s Lost Control” about a girl Curtis met through his work in social services. This girl suffered from epilepsy – as did Curtis, and according to last night’s documentary he developed a friendship with her. She died after suffering an epileptic seizure.

And she turned around and took me by the hand
And said I’ve lost control again.
And how I’ll never know just why or understand
She said I’ve lost control again.
And she screamed out kicking on her side
And said I’ve lost control again.
And seized up on the floor, I thought she’d die.
She said I’ve lost control.
She’s lost control again.
She’s lost control.
She’s lost control again.
She’s lost control.

This is powerful music.

And it must be borne in mind that this stuff was happening to these men when they were still boys. Curtis was married at 19 years of age, dead by 24.

They released two full-length LPs. “Unknown Pleasures” in 1979 and “Closer” in 1980. Both are truly, truly, phenomenal pieces of work. Monoliths. Choosing a song from each to feature here is almost impossible, but “Shadowplay” from the debut is the Joy Division song I fell in love with first, and “Isolation”, covered by Therapy? on Troublegum is one of the highlights of the follow-up.

But as wasn’t unusual in the industry then, their best works featured on singles and EPs, rather than studio albums, and later resurfaced in some form on compilations. The first Joy Division record I bought was “Still”, a compilation of demos, session, live cuts etc. And it features “Dead Souls” first released as the B-Side of the “Licht und Blindheit” 7″. The A-side was “Atmosphere”. Both are among their finest works.

But the words “Joy Division” have always conjured up one song for most people, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, simply one of the greatest songs ever written. The simple melody, the insistent, urgent beat, and then of course, those lyrics. They take relationship problems into the realm of despairing poetry; painting an intimate picture of the trauma in the writer’s life as his young love fell apart as he was falling into another. Again, simply one of the greatest songs ever written.

When routine bites hard,
And ambitions are low,
And resentment rides high,
But emotions won’t grow,
And we’re changing our ways, taking different roads.

Then love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.

Why is the bedroom so cold?
You’ve turned away on your side.
Is my timing that flawed?
Our respect runs so dry.
Yet there’s still this appeal
That we’ve kept through our lives.

But love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.

You cry out in your sleep,
All my failings exposed.
And there’s a taste in my mouth,
As desperation takes hold.
Just that something so good just can’t function no more.

But love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.

The end of joy Division was tragic. Those who loved Ian Curtis speak of their own regrets at not having seen it coming, or seen the extent of his problems. He had already overdosed on his epilepsy medicine a month before he died. Bernard Sumner, on the BBC documentary, described this first ‘attempt’ as a “complete surprise” and on hearing he had died, kept repeating “he’s tried again?”, taking time to absorb the news that his friend was in fact dead. Aged 24. The night before the band he formed as a teenager was due to go on their first American Tour. Tony Wilson, talking to Spin magazine in 2005, said “I think all of us made the mistake of not thinking his suicide was going to happen… We all completely underestimated the danger. We didn’t take it seriously. That’s how stupid we were”.

Joy Division’s legacy is in almost every alternative rock band, every indie band, electronic act, and almost every punk and metal band that has come since. The evidence is in covers by the aforementioned Therapy?, Nine Inch Nails, U2, Siobhán Fahey, etc. etc. But regardless of the breadth of the worship this band engendered, the success of New Order, the band formed by the 3 remaining members, is doubtlessly the greatest tribute to both their earlier work, and to Ian Curtis. For Hook, Sumner and Morris, to have been part of one of the most influential bands of all time must be rewarding beyond the comprehension of us mere mortals. To have been part of two must border on the farcical. An incredible and ongoing story.

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Screw No.403 ~ Father John Misty Feels The Love

Emma Tillman and Josh Tillman

Who ever said that the best albums are inspired by heartbreak and loves lost? Father John Misty has flown in the face of such logic and produced one of the best albums to hit my humble ears in a long long time. Fresh from his marriage to photographer and filmmaker Emma Elizabeth Garr, his latest album, I Love You Honeybear, is a reflection by a man on falling in love, questioning it, doubting himself, falling in love all over again, questioning it some more and ultimately falling head over heels all the way into the ultimate commitment. Or so it would seem. Some lyrics are veiled in comedy too much to have any meaning but ultimately it all comes down to the love he has for his now wife Emma. None more so than the closing track “I Went To The Store One Day” where he recalls the fateful day when he met Emma outside a shop front. Check out the song as recently performed in Paris for the wonderful folks at the Take Away Shows. Tillman plays the love song in a cafe with wife Emma looking on in the background. Some special magic for the weekend that’s ahead of us.

Get this album into your life friends but don’t fall for the deluxe vinyl trap that I fell into. It’s main deluxe feature is a musical birthday card style diorama that plays the opening track on a loop everytime you open it. A possible satirical poke in the direction of the vinyl hysteria that has gripped the music industry of late.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow morning at 9am for his gig at Dublin’s Vicar Street on October 24th. Don’t forget there’s also his already sold out gig in Whelans this coming February 22nd.

Feel the love. Enjoy.

Father John Misty ~ I Went To The Store One Day : A Take Away Show

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Screw no. 402 ~ Kopek, The Button Factory, 7/2/15

Dublin band Kopek play the Button Factory tonight. This 3-piece have been a real slow burner, first forming as Bloom in the late 90’s and playing, and winning, a lot of battle of the bands contests. They were always a fairly solid rock band and I can’t quite fathom how it took until 2010 for their debut album to emerge. I have a fair idea that management issues in their early days may have had a bearing. In any case, they persevered, taking a different route to most. They won the Global Battle of the Bands in 2005, for which they received $100,000 and a world tour. As a result, they had a bit of airplay in the States and Canada. I have no idea how these prizes really work out, but it culminated with a record deal with Religion music in Dublin in 2009, and now, they’ve just released their second album “Rise”, through BMG Germany.

Hometown show tonight, followed by a short German tour in March. Their sound is uncomplicated rock. They seem to rely solely on guitar, bass, drums and vocals, which is refreshing in these days where live shows are dominated by bearded men leaning smugly over laptops. But it means the songs have to be good, and thankfully they are. Kopek are absolutely and unashamedly mainstream, also refreshing, but really know how to kick off when necessary. Plenty of energy, plenty of heavy guitar, but also the tunes and the hooks.

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Screw No. 401 ~ Ramona Lisa

Chairlift member and one time songwriter for Beyonce, Brooklyn based Ramona Lisa’ (Caroline Polacheck) beguiling, pastoral art pop just bleeped on my radar and fit nicely into my lazy Friday morning. Debut album ‘Arcadia’ was mainly inspired and recorded during a residency in Rome’ Villa Medici, apparently It’s a concept album of love songs interpreted via nature allegories. It feels diaphanous on first listen, understated yet elegant and dappled perhaps with influence from synth-pop experiments during the 70’s and early 80’s.


Ramona Lisa ~ Arcadia

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Screw No.400 ~ Tom Waits : A Day in Vienna

Tom Waits

The year is 1978, or is it 1979 (nobody seems to know), when Tom Waits rolls into Vienna to be met by Austrian filmmakers Rudi Dolezal and Hannes Rossacher. Waits is touring Europe in support of his now classic album Blue Valentine. Dolezal & Rossacher are chancing their arm to try and grab an interview with the husky folk crooner for ORF (Österreichischer Rundfunk) AKA Austrian telly station. What ensues is not your conventional interview but a docudrama style musical life in the day of Tom Waits.

As Hoskyns tells it in Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits.

“Waits and band flew to Holland for a short European tour that took in Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Vienna, London, Dublin, Brussels, and Paris. … In Vienna on 19 April, Waits was filmed by Rudi Dolezal and Hannes Rossacher for a short documentary that incorporated live performances of “Sweet Little Bullet,” “Christmas Card,” and a loose-limbed take on “Shake, Rattle and Roll.” “He came in from Amsterdam saying he hadn’t slept all night, but he agreed on the spot to let us film him,” says Rossacher. “He said he didn’t want to do a proper interview but instead he wanted to tell stories.”


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Screw No. 399 ~ Kyoka

I’ve been foregrounding music with an emotional hue recently, sonic microcosmics as with AWALthe1st and bine for example and besides a cursory listen to what is to all intents and purposes a heartbreaking break up album by Bjork, I’ve been thinking it’s time for us all to get out of ourselves for a moment.

Hence and therefore try Japanese born, Berlin resident Kyoka on the famous german electronica label Raster Noton. Bleeps, buzzes and blips follow sinewy percussion like pilot fish around sharks, engaging the sensual via the musculature. It’s liquid and hefty at the same time and best ingurgitated under strobe and in grubby late night warehouse parties.

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