Thursday, April 26, 2012

Original and cover: Love Will Tear Us Apart

The most popular song from Joy Division. It has been one of the most covered songs of all time. The lyrics reflect singer Ian Curtis' problems with his marriage to Deborah Curtis, and the title is an homage to the Captain and Tennile song "Love Will Keep Us Together" It also talks about his general frame of mind at the time. NME has named it as best single of all time in 2002, Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys has said it is his favorite song of all time. It was featured in an important scene in Donnie Darko where Donnie has to leave his girlfriend to save the world. An important song, but in my opinion, not their best. I think that spot belongs to New Dawn Fades, Novelty or 24 Hours. Joy Division was one of the most important postpunk bands and this song was basically their legacy. The title was even written on Ian's tombstone. Their dark lyrics and Ian's singing predated the gothic rock subgenre, and were the first band to be labeled as "gothic". John Bush of Allmusic argues that Joy Division "became the first band in the post-punk movement by ... emphasizing not anger and energy but mood and expression, pointing ahead to the rise of melancholy alternative music in the '80s." I first heard it on some 120 Minutes compilation CD which names escapes me. I wanted to hear more from this band. I was bummed to find out they were no more. I ended up getting the Heart and Soul box set which includes everything you really need to hear from them. Here is the original song:

Like I mentioned, there have been too many covers of this song to count, so let's start with the Cure's version. This version is pretty good, keeping the same spirit as the original. The basslines are a bit fuzzy and loud which distracts from the vocal a bit. Overall, a pretty ok cover. Joy Division did open for The Cure for a bit during the late 70s as well. Here is the version from the Cure.

Now, this version from The Swans happens to be my favorite and I have said before that this should be the only cover that should exist because it's sooo good. Actually there are two covers of this song from this band. Let's look at the version with Jarboe on lead vocals first. This version is my favorite of the two because of her beautiful, ethereal vocals and the nice guitar on this. It gives a whole new meaning, look and sound to the song. It's nice to hear a female voice interpret this song. So pure and beautiful.

The following is another cover by Swans. This time it featured Michael Gira on lead vocals, though Jarboe does backing vocals. This is more similar to the original, though (and many Joy Division purists will dislike the following comment), I feel Michael Gira has a better voice than Ian. Ian was more of an emotional singer but Michael is the better vocalist here. I love the use of guitar and the vocals of Michael and Jarboe here. This to me is the definitive version of this song, a must hear.
The last cover is from bossa nova group, Nouvelle Vague (which roughly translates to new wave). Nouvelle Vague are a covers band, but they cover 80s and new wave song in a bossa nova style. They have covered songs from The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, XTC, The Church, Depeche Mode, PiL, among others. I love their album and it's always awesome to hear this old classics in a different form. The singer has a very strong French accent so it might not be for everyone. I happen to like how awkward it sounds. Here's Nouvelle Vague's cover of Love Will Tear Us Apart.

The list is endless of bands who have covered this. It has been covered by U2, Fall Out Boy, Heavens, New Order (which is Joy Division minus Ian), Bjork, Dave Gahan, Thom Yorke (of Radiohead), Jose Gonzalez, Apoptygma Berzerk, Moonspell, Arcade Fire, John Frusciante, among tons others. I think only Love Song by The Cure has been covered by more artists. Nevertheless, check out the covers I posted. Thanks again!

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