Hardcore for Nerds

"Why sneer at the intellectuals?"*
punk music, left politics, and cultural history - previously found here.
contact: gabbaweeks[at]gmail.com (sorry, no promos/submissions, thanks) or ask
Dublin, Ireland. 27, history, politics & law graduate
HFN | Best New Punk | HFN 2012 2011 2010 2009 | HRO 2k9 | Hoover Genealogy Project | @HC4N
*from the title of a review of Arthur Koestler's Arrival and Departure by Michael Foot, Evening Standard, Nov. 26, 1943.
Apr 10
Permalink
raptoravatar:

hashknife:

he had moves like this and yet he still killed himself what chance do the rest of us stand?

I felt this way for almost all of “Infinite Jest”.

I needed to do some refreshing on the sociology of disability, so I read through almost all of Michael Oliver’s The Politics of Disablement yesterday(there’s a updated 2012 edition of the 1990 book called The New Politics of Disablement which I also need to read, but haven’t got hold of a copy yet) and it struck me how many references there were to epilepsy, as interpreted through the conflict between the medical and social models of disability. Sure enough, Oliver’s PhD thesis was titled ‘Epilepsy, Self and Society’ and dated from… 1979.
Which is a roundabout way of saying that when this first crossed my dash, I had some uneasy thoughts about that first line. I hesitated to comment because I’m not sure of the causation - indeed if anyone is, or could be, but I’m just basing it on watching Control and reading Deborah Curtis’ powerful memoir Touching from a Distance - but either those ‘moves’ were partially symptomatic of his epilepsy, or at the very least the strain of performance exacerbated the condition, while the medication he was prescribed for epilepsy had negative side-effects which contributed to his mental ill-health. That’s not to say there weren’t other social and personal factors - indeed, it is say very much that there were - in Curtis going down the route that resulted in his death. I just have an image of the lead singer of Joy Division meeting a young(ish) disabled academic around that time, possibly with a perspective that could have led to a different outcome. 

raptoravatar:

hashknife:

he had moves like this and yet he still killed himself
what chance do the rest of us stand?

I felt this way for almost all of “Infinite Jest”.

I needed to do some refreshing on the sociology of disability, so I read through almost all of Michael Oliver’s The Politics of Disablement yesterday(there’s a updated 2012 edition of the 1990 book called The New Politics of Disablement which I also need to read, but haven’t got hold of a copy yet) and it struck me how many references there were to epilepsy, as interpreted through the conflict between the medical and social models of disability. Sure enough, Oliver’s PhD thesis was titled ‘Epilepsy, Self and Society’ and dated from… 1979.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that when this first crossed my dash, I had some uneasy thoughts about that first line. I hesitated to comment because I’m not sure of the causation - indeed if anyone is, or could be, but I’m just basing it on watching Control and reading Deborah Curtis’ powerful memoir Touching from a Distance - but either those ‘moves’ were partially symptomatic of his epilepsy, or at the very least the strain of performance exacerbated the condition, while the medication he was prescribed for epilepsy had negative side-effects which contributed to his mental ill-health. That’s not to say there weren’t other social and personal factors - indeed, it is say very much that there were - in Curtis going down the route that resulted in his death. I just have an image of the lead singer of Joy Division meeting a young(ish) disabled academic around that time, possibly with a perspective that could have led to a different outcome. 

joy division disability mental health uk moving gif
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Dec 19
Permalink
imathers:

rubyvroom:


oh godx  it’s a good song but there are OTHERSx




Well, I COULD come up with some other song like “Atmosphere” in order to prove my cred, but really, my favorite’s still “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. 

I mean, I kind of understand the sentiment; if you ask someone their favourite Joy Division song you’re presumably asking as a fan to someone you think is another fan. Maybe there’s an element of “cred” there, sometimes, but hopefully not always.
Hopefully you’re just asking because you’re interested in the other person and what moves them. So what’s sometimes annoying isn’t that someone’s favourite Joy Division song is “Love Will Tear Us Apart”; it’s an amazing song, one that in some ways (musically, contextually) stands apart from their other work. You can easily be a ‘real’ Joy Division fan, whatever the fuck that means, and think it’s their best song (full disclosure: according to iTunes I’ve listened to “Autosuggestion,” “Ice Age” and the demo of “In a Lonely Place” from the box set more than “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” although I’m not willing to pick a favourite).
What’s potentially annoying is when you’re asking someone what their favourite song by the band is, and what they really mean when they say “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is “the only Joy Division song I [know/like] is “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” It’d be nice if they just said that, because there is a world of different between listening to the band’s work over and over and liking this song best, and only really hearing or liking this song (both are interesting!). I’m certainly not going to respect someone any less for the latter kind of response.

this is a very good explanation (also, this) for something that shouldn’t really need an explanation.
personally, I’m not a massive Joy Division fan - just cos I’ve never really been able to get into their extended work, especially the earlier stuff - so I probably would say ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is my favourite song, although it’s probably overplayed enough in the contexts I encounter to make Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallejulah’ seem like a long-lost classic; in terms of listening to the one album I like in particular, then it’s probably 'Decades'.
also, in terms of further self-promotion of my taste and/or writing, I’d recommend this angsty hardcore cover of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, and in a similar vein, my favourite Joy Division song not performed by Joy Division, Swing Kids’ version of ‘Warsaw’. 3! 1! G!

imathers:

rubyvroom:

oh godx  it’s a good song but there are OTHERSx
Well, I COULD come up with some other song like “Atmosphere” in order to prove my cred, but really, my favorite’s still “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. 

I mean, I kind of understand the sentiment; if you ask someone their favourite Joy Division song you’re presumably asking as a fan to someone you think is another fan. Maybe there’s an element of “cred” there, sometimes, but hopefully not always.

Hopefully you’re just asking because you’re interested in the other person and what moves them. So what’s sometimes annoying isn’t that someone’s favourite Joy Division song is “Love Will Tear Us Apart”; it’s an amazing song, one that in some ways (musically, contextually) stands apart from their other work. You can easily be a ‘real’ Joy Division fan, whatever the fuck that means, and think it’s their best song (full disclosure: according to iTunes I’ve listened to “Autosuggestion,” “Ice Age” and the demo of “In a Lonely Place” from the box set more than “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” although I’m not willing to pick a favourite).

What’s potentially annoying is when you’re asking someone what their favourite song by the band is, and what they really mean when they say “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is “the only Joy Division song I [know/like] is “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” It’d be nice if they just said that, because there is a world of different between listening to the band’s work over and over and liking this song best, and only really hearing or liking this song (both are interesting!). I’m certainly not going to respect someone any less for the latter kind of response.

this is a very good explanation (also, this) for something that shouldn’t really need an explanation.

personally, I’m not a massive Joy Division fan - just cos I’ve never really been able to get into their extended work, especially the earlier stuff - so I probably would say ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is my favourite song, although it’s probably overplayed enough in the contexts I encounter to make Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallejulah’ seem like a long-lost classic; in terms of listening to the one album I like in particular, then it’s probably 'Decades'.

also, in terms of further self-promotion of my taste and/or writing, I’d recommend this angsty hardcore cover of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, and in a similar vein, my favourite Joy Division song not performed by Joy Division, Swing Kids’ version of ‘Warsaw’. 3! 1! G!

(Source: clove-smoke-catharsis, via imathers)

joy division punk post-punk
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May 21
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Swing Kids - ‘Warsaw’ (Joy Division cover)

(previously)

A couple of days ago I finished reading Touching from a Distance, Deborah Curtis’s memoir of her life with Ian Curtis, the singer and lyricist for Joy Division who killed himself in May 1980, shortly before the band were due to embark on a tour of the US. At the back of the book are a full set of his lyrics, and after finishing the story of his last days and death, as well as the reaction of some of those around him, I turned the page to this song, the earliest lyric from 1977. “I was there in the back stage, when first light came around” stood out as an image of isolation and separateness.

I

I was drawn to read the book from seeing Anton Corbijn’s Control, which is based on it, and from reading this interview in the Guardian, which I saw shortly after reading a similar interview with David Foster Wallace’s widow on the publication of The Pale King. Given that I’d just seen the film and wasn’t otherwise a huge Joy Division fan, I tried to find out a bit more about the book and if it was an interesting read in itself. The Amazon reviews were a study in contrast, between those deeply touched and impressed by the book and those strongly critical of what they saw as a one-sided depiction of an artistic hero. In the end, I sided with the positive responses: partly because they seemed more reasonable; and partly because I had, after all, already seen the film and had found it convincing, so I was interested to read the story from the first-person perspective.

The first thing that struck me was how, removed from the distance and the certain stylisation of the biopic, Ian’s behaviour seemed so reprehensible: controlling, forceful, illiberal, and irrationally hypocritical towards his girlfriend, then his wife, and the mother of his child. On the one hand, I’ve read a lot about deeply unpleasant men who produced great work - namely the three varyingly critical biographies published about Arthur Koestler - and while that certainly doesn’t excuse or necessarily explain such personal behaviour, it only colours and doesn’t really constrain the reading of it, given the numerous sources of suffering in the world other than men’s needs to dominate in relationships with women (yes! there are others!). Yet on the other, it’s hard not to be affected by the account of the experience - relived as much as lived - while also wondering what that account would look like from the opposite perspective.

That perspective - Ian’s point of view - doesn’t really seem to exist, which is unsurprising given that he died by suicide aged 23. Critical defences on his behalf exist, so it’s not about him being some much-maligned figure: rather the opposite. I’m perhaps biased by never particularly liking the music of Joy Division - I like it, but don’t love it - and as such I can’t understand the constant lauding of Ian Curtis you see under every YouTube video of the band, which I suspect comes from seeing him as a tragic figure and perhaps a troubled one, but never outright dislikeable. All these people touched by Joy Division’s music, how do they rank against those touched personally by Ian Curtis’s suicide?

Generally I believe that it’s a fallacy to rank art and life together like that, but it’s hard not to when you see people who find in his lyrics something deep and meaningful, and then you read a story which portrays an unpleasant personality - not without a caring side, which is also emphasised, though it’s frequently suggested here that the epilepsy or the epilepsy medication exacerbated the harsher, more controlling, more distant side of him - of someone who took themselves out of the lives of those around him with little warning. Deborah Curtis writes with a committed hope that had he been able to properly engage with professional psychiatric help it could have been different - “I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t taken into hospital where he could be put under the care of one professional person, rather than be pulled in different directions by a bunch of amateurs”. Two attempts are recounted - the first time he misread the appointment card and arrived on the wrong date, but not before telling his by then estranged wife “how unhappy he was in the music business” and

"that when ‘Transmission’ and Unknown Pleasures had been released, he had achieved his ambitions. Now there was nothing left for him to do. All he ever intended was to have one album and one single pressed. His ambitions had never extended to recording ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ or Closer.”

The second time he did get to see a psychiatrist, and although Deborah went in beforehand to try and impress on the doctor the seriousness of the situation and of his behaviour she felt too emotional to be coherent and ultimately as if she, rather than Ian, was the one in need of help. Though as a whole the book takes a measured view of love and loss, with moments of foreshadowing explained away by the charm and naivety of youth, this is one of the cruellest moments in the tale. “I was sorry for him and felt completely helpless.” 

II

'Warsaw' is an enigma, like most Joy Division songs; but an enigma of cruelty. The numbers called out refer, as is clearly established in the internet age, to the prisoner of war number of Nazi Rudolf Hess following his capture in Britain during the war after a botched attempt at peace negotiations in 1941; later, he was an inmate in Spandau Prison in Berlin, and from 1966 the sole remaining occupant - this bizarre situation, which continued until his death by apparent suicide in 1987, made him an object of political controversy around the time this song was written and first performed, as well as a subject of various conspiracy theories then and after. The lyrics, with lines like “I can still hear the footsteps/I can see only walls” can be fairly easily matched up with a retelling of the Rudolf Hess story and perhaps his relationship with Hitler (in which case the “back stage” becomes the backdrop to the biggest drama of the Western 20th century); references to reason, talk, contradiction, faith tests, being right all take on an extra cryptic dimension.

Whatever its exact meaning may be, it’s a fucking weird subject for a song. There’s a strain of Nazi fetishization in the early Joy Division which is both of its era and somewhat beyond it (I can always remember knowing that the band name was a reference to concentration camps, but it was only recently that I became aware of what that reference specifically was) and there’s another part in Touching from a Distance which records that fact from a personal perspective, and one that makes the whole thing seem rather Odd Future-esque (sorry - but not really):  

"The release of the EP [An Ideal For Living] in January marked the change of name from Warsaw to Joy Division after the disappointing news that there was already a London-based band called Warsaw Pakt. The essential ingredient for any band at that time was to have a supposedly shocking name. Names such as Slaughter and the Dogs and Ed Banger and the Nosebleeds were guaranteed to conjure up the image of a group who just might resemble the Sex Pistols. Most young hopefuls completely missed the sad fact that all they could ever be were pale imitations jumping on the inevitable band(!)-wagon. Ian told me that Joy Division was what the Nazis called female prisoners kept alive to be used as prostitutes for the German Army. I cringed. It was gruesome and tasteless and I hoped that the majority of people would not know what it meant. I wondered if the members of the band were intending to glorify the degradation of women. Telling myself that they had chosen it merely to gain attention, I gradually became accustomed to the provocative moniker and concentrated on the music.”

Deborah Curtis, Touching from a Distance, 54-5.

110 plays
Joy Division emo hardcore odd future swing kids HFN post-punk
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Apr 22
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Joy Division - ‘Decades’ from Closer (1980)

I really like dub, although I don’t listen to that much of it - a couple of albums each from Horace Andy and Augustus Pablo, basically. The originals are great, but its the dub influence on other bands, specifically punk and post-punk, that most interests me. It’s there in Fugazi, in Joe Lally’s bass which the Rolling Stone album guide describes as “three parts Joy Division to one part dub” on Steady Diet of Nothing; or in Hoover, whose guitarist Joseph McRedmond I asked to account for the influence, and he simply explained it as ”deep late night party music with your friends” and, perhaps referring more to the reggae side of it, “usually with a message”.

If the style is not perhaps very far below the surface on most Joy Division tracks, on this song it pretty much is the surface. Not so much in the bass which is usually associated with dub, but in the treble, the tinny melody and percussion that sits on top of a typical dub track, creating an epic contrast with the undulating subterranean rhythm; a kind of aural chiaroscuro, or Ansel Adams. Heavy skanking, gothic style. But just as dub creates an alternatingly oppressive and glorious atmosphere, so it is with this Joy Division album finisher.

60 plays
Joy Division dub 80s post-punk HFN
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Apr 09
Permalink
"I saw a review on Amazon once, somebody had written, ‘She doesn’t understand her subject’. And I thought, ‘Well, surely that’s the point?’" She sighs.

Guardian interview with Deborah Curtis, wife of Ian Curtis of Joy Division, on the 2005 republication of Touching from a Distance, her account of their marriage, the band, and his suicide aged 23.

I watched Control, the Anton Corbijn film based on the book, last night for the first time on Film4. I’ve never actually been a huge Joy Division fan, at least on record and aside from the obvious singles, but I’ve always more or less appreciated the link between their late 70s brand of post-punk, and the ‘original’ emo or post-hardcore that’s been my main musical interest since age 16 or so - especially in the case of two of my favourite bands, really quite dissimilar, in that genre, the Swing Kids and Moss Icon. It’s not just a musical influence - that applies to way too many ‘indie’ bands - but in taking their emotional cues from Curtis’s band, there’s an important difference.

Call it catharsis, call it just a different context - though the Swing Kids also lost a member to suicide, which probably just goes to show that it’s a problem general among young men whether they’re in popular bands or not - but I think it’s a qualitative development in terms of punk to have a movement based on the artistic expression of emotion - which is what Joy Division only did in part, and mostly subsumed into a miserabilist aesthetic, whereas ‘emo’ proper takes it a step beyond - even if understanding doesn’t necessarily follow.

joy division emo post-punk punk swing kids moss icon
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Feb 19
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raptoravatar:

Joy Division x Playmobile stop motion “Transmission.”

That lifeless grin adds so much. 

Also, moneyfire pretty much only posts stuff that is great.

maybe it’s just because it’s getting late, but watching this made me feel viscerally sick in my brain. this and the last video you posted.

(seriously, watch it, it’s great!)

joy division
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Feb 14
Permalink
vinylsunday:

inthefade:

again | large
for the flip side of love

vinylsunday:

inthefade:

again | large

for the flip side of love

joy division vinyl post-punk
Comments (View) | 181 notes
Feb 10
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willthenight:

Transmission

Low

“Transmission”

Transmission EP

1996

If I’m going to talk about how Joy Division inspired bands to explore extremes of minimalism, slow tempo, and emotional focus, the discussion has to begin with Low. Low created the template, one of the greatest and most instantly recognizable “sounds” in the post-punk era.  Yes, I would argue that Low belong to the post-punk era, musically at least, but that’s another post.  “Transmission” is one of the best demonstrations of how Low were able to use this formula not only to make songs from disparate sources their own, but also how in the best cases this type of formalist exercise can combine with outstanding performances to bring out different shades of meaning in the original. 

The band’s first two albums, I Could Live in Hope and Long Division, had been similar in sound, song structures and subject matter.  They had an idea, a great one, and they applied it rigorously and successfully.  The antecedents of this big idea are most easily found in the early albums of the Cure, Joy Division’s two albums, and to a lesser extent Galaxie 500 (at least partially through shared producer, Kramer) and the Velvet Underground (from whom all good things come).  Although it had been a part of their live set for some time, “Transmission” was released as the lead track of a stop-gap EP early in 1996.  The song had also appeared on the A Means to an End tribute compilation a few months previously (see also, Codeine). Coming just as they were about to take a great leap beyond “the template” on The Curtain Hits the Cast, it’s tempting to see the band’s adoption of this song at this particular time as serving two purposes: to pay tribute to a band that had helped them to discover their own unique sound, and to express “the template” in its purest form before moving into more experimental territory. They wanted to sound like Joy Division, but slower. And it was beautiful.

It’s beyond obvious to say explicitly, but Low’s “Transmission” is much slower than the original. The instrumentation is minimal, the propulsive bass line of the original becomes a slow pulse, joined by by Mimi Parker’s lonely ride cymbal and heavily reverbed snare, both played with brushes.  There are no obvious guitar overdubs, just Alan Sparhawk’s single guitar with all the telltale noises and tiny goofs of a one-take performance. Despite the slow tempo, the dynamic build in the song’s final third is just as thrilling and invigorating as in the original.  But clearly, this is not a rave-up, it’s a meditation.

And it’s not a particularly uplifting one at that.  Ian Curtis’s vocal on the original “Transmission” was a plea for connection—alone in a fragmented world, he reaches out for shared communal experience, imploring his audience to dance, dance, dance to a live radio broadcast.  “Touching from a distance, further all the time,” but still touching.  Alan Sparhawk’s vocal is layered in the same digital delay that Joy Division had used so well, but his tone is sneering, almost sarcastic.  Although Mimi Parker’s voice is human and beautiful, in the song’s climax the harmony between the two vocalists suggests only foreboding. There is no hope here, no distant community to reach out to, and the shared experience provided by radio broadcasts is only an illusion. The radio is just another automaton. 

The fragmented bursts of broadcasts sprinkled throughout the track further express this theme—the broadcasts are inhuman, random and communicate nothing. But those random radio transmissions have a story themselves, as they are most likely an homage to the 1967 Silver Apples track “Program,” which dealt with similar subject matter in a more oblique way. I would not make this connection so explicitly if I had not seen Low perform “Program” during an afternoon show in Minneapolis in the summer of 1999.  This was my introduction to the music of the Silver Apples, and further proof that while “the template” belongs uniquely to Low, they found great inspiration in the earlier work of others, and in cases like “Transmission” took that inspiration in new and impressive directions.

I’ve never been much into Low, preferring the more direct sounds of the likes of Slint or Codeine, but I very much dig the slowcore aesthetic. Another example is this far less polished and more straightforward cover of ‘Disorder’ by Bedhead, which still definitely translates the Joy Division song into slowcore terms.

I’m glad you mentioned the Velvet Underground in this, because I hear a lot of them in this take on Joy Division. As befits the genre, the song takes a long time to get anywhere, but the way the delivery of the vocals is slowed down, extending the notes being actually sung is very VU, as is the echoing chime of the chord changes in the final part; it’s the creation of space, part meditative, part rave-up (which occurs in some Velvet Underground tracks and which is left unspoken, but implied, on slowcore ones) which made their albums so beautiful. But beauty is just the flipside of ugliness, and my point would be that whether a Joy Division cover is spacious (like this one) or crowded out (like Xiu Xiu), it’s expressing something similar around the shared emotional beat.

130 plays
joy division post-punk slowcore 90s
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Feb 09
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Joy Divisions

tristn/postpunk’s post on Xiu Xiu’s cover of ‘Ceremony’ by Joy Division contained some interesting thoughts on the evolution of aggression in post-punk music. the Xiu Xiu version is indeed murderous, and Xiu Xiu are indeed inappropriately screamy - however, as he later clarified, that wasn’t quite the point: “I wanted to get into how Myspacey and emo [Xiu Xiu] can be and contrast it against the reserve Joy Division had, but that would have been too messy, so instead I just wondered how self-parodic their style can be.”

Yet for all their “musical rigidity and emotional restraint”, Joy Division are curiously attractive to bands who don’t match those criteria, and in fact deny them. Amongst the many Joy Division covers out there are some which seem to point to the fact that the reserve is an overlay of emotion, not an absence of it. Since screaming and emo is a special interest of mine, I tend to associate emotion in music most of all with early 90s hardcore, regardless of how it appears in other forms of music before and since then. So when I think of Joy Division, a lot of the time I think of the covers such as this one by Swing Kids of the classic ‘Warsaw’, which speeds up the original and slows down the context (of the rest of their songs), and spits outs the words with venom alongside the coarse shards of guitar. Or, less familiar (and more predictable), this cover of 'Love Will Tear You Apart' by Californian straight-edge hardcore band Unbroken (which shared members with Swing Kids). In musical terms, to those familiar with hardcore, it’s more straightforward than Swing Kids; but here the tough-guy vocals have that intake of breath at the end which reminds me of Rites of Spring and similar late-80s hardcore, while the guitars riff through the song in a recognisably melodic way which also incorporates that harsh edge of the hardcore of the period.

What I hear in these songs, in respect of Joy Division, is not just an abandonment of mid-paced 80s post-punk, but an amplification of the ideas behind the emotional-reserve facade and a translation of those into the emotional-hardcore expression of musical violence. Where Myspacey-ness and conventional ‘emo’ goes wrong, however, is in expression without style, without restraint, and without the knowledge that you’re expressing something non-conforming and sincere. I think Xiu Xiu, like Swing Kids or Unbroken, have their own style, their own sincerity; and place their restraints at a level that can be accommodated by their creativity and uniqueness. ‘Emo’ doesn’t require any particular level of emotional outlet - i.e., scream all you like - except what makes sense in the music that’s being created. Thus Joy Division created emotion by relief, against a minimalist backdrop; Swing Kids created emotion by heat and passion, by violent abandon; Xiu Xiu by overload, by inappropriateness to the circumstances.

joy division screamo post-hardcore swing kids unbroken 90s post-punk xiu xiu
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Sep 07
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Xiu Xiu - ‘Ian Curtis Wishlist’ from A Promise

it’s not really a Joy Division cover, at all, but it is another example of how that band played a part in inspiring all sorts of weird and wonderful music.

the 20 hundred private loops
making up my AHHHHHHHHH!
Ian Curtis (I can’t believe I said it) Wish List

(songmeanings)

109 plays
xiu xiu joy division post punk
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