Another listicle corrective. I’m on a mission from God.
There are too many “Great Joy Division Covers” listicles, many listing the same songs. Time for a new listicle.
Let’s begin by excluding the 1995 Joy Division covers comp “A Means to an End.” Not to discount stuff on there (some of it far exceeding expectations, like Codeine’s swing at “Atmosphere,” or Versus’s straight take on “Twenty-Four-Hours” and Low’s slo-mo version of “Transmission,”) but most JD-Covers listicles do a lazy one-stop-shop harvesting of that comp.
We’ll also move on after politely nodding to Swans, whose soaring, faithful 1987 cover of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” brought JD back to zeitgeist status by catching the college/indie/alt wave on its initial swell exactly when New Order had run out of creative gas.
Metal outfit Nachmystium, as well as Kings of Convenience, both covered “The Eternal” and should have their knuckles rapped for trying. And yeah, I know Grace Jones covered “She’s Lost Control,” and I’m a fan most of the time, but I’d rather watch Conan the Destroyer than listen to that ever again. Also, I humbly submit: fuck Radiohead’s cover of “Ceremony.” Ian Curtis wasn’t no moaner.
12) Pipe – Warsaw
Happily discovered this on a whim-bought Merge 7″ in the mid nineties. Nobody’s embarrassed, “Warsaw” rocks like it should, distortion to eleven. Pipe lasted only six years originally, but never broke into the legend-status ranks of Archers of Loaf, Polvo, or that of their drummer’s former band, Superchunk. For more on that story, definitely read Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records.
11) Jose Gonzalez – Love Will Tear Us Apart
Here’s how you bring a song back to life while tearing the house down at the same time:
10) Jawbox – Something Must Break
Similar to Swans’s cover, in timing, Jawbox helped the indie-rock crowd agree who the influence cornerstones would be. No one covers this song much, if ever. Jawbox could be relentless, and they were, here.
9) Seaweed – Warsaw
Like Pipe, Seaweed deserved better but just didn’t get the ears. Whenever you need a record of straightforward 90s rock, stream up some Seaweed. I bet they get a check for $ 0.00987.
8) Vitamin String Quartet – New Dawn Fades
Good freakin’ lord. Get Hollywood on the phone, I’ve got the music bed for the final credits of anything.
7) Paul Young – Love Will Tear Us Apart
There’s a reason you don’t hear this one much. It’s horrible. Back in my DJ days, when I felt a crowd getting too cool, I’d throw this on, or sometimes I’d play it just to hear someone ask, “is that fucking Paul Young?” Verbatim from the youtube comments: “I thought this version is better than the original.” And that’s why I include it here. Because JD fans need to be kept honest.
6) Calexico – Love Will Tear Us Apart
As covers by Calexico go, they do a better job on Love’s “Along Again Or” and The Clash’s “Guns of Brixton.” Yet to hear a band cover a song without sacrificing their own sound, and then allow the original songwriting to alter their approach, is a rare thing these days.
5) Twilight Sad -Twenty Four Hours
Curtis and Hook get all the hype, but those who cover this song either hit or miss on how much they pay attention to what Bernard Sumner was doing with his guitar. Scotland’s Twilight Sad paid attention, resulting in this howl of near-reverent coverage, the guitar pedals blasting through the song like a sudden fireball.
4) Effigies – No love Lost
I know people who’d cut off a finger for their love of the Effigies, founders of the late great Ruthless Records and possibly co-founders of Chicago hardcore (someone will argue about that). I don’t go that far into my worship of the Effigies, but man, did they bring it, at times, as they do here, a song difficult to pull off given Ian Curtis’s spoken part can make you sound like a shithead if you don’t really mean it.
3) Xiu Xiu – Ceremony
If there’s a version of “Ceremony ” that makes it fun to imagine Ian Curtis loving it, Xiu Xiu has done it. Vocals yelled to distortion, warped keyboards. In other words, Xiu Xiu. You knew they were the band who would always do it, if by the time they’d recorded this you’d already heard their song “Ian Curtis Wishlist” from 2003’s “A Promise.”
2) Jah Division – Heart and Soul
What not amazing here? Nothing. The stretched synths, the warped keyboards, the original pulse of Hook’s baseline pulling and pushing at the beat. Ian Curtis was an Augustus Pablo fan , so why not? Was not melodica played on JD records? The whole EP, if you can find it, is worth every penny. Jah Division never recorded anything else, essentially a one-off and now infrequently live-stage resurrected collaboration between Home/Interpol member Brad Traux and Kid Millions and Barry London of the forever excellent Oneida.
1) Steel Harmony – Transmission (Live on a parade float, Manchester, 7/4/09)
Just watch it. It’s magnificent.