He crooned anguish. He delivered sullen commotion. He
expressed his restlessness and soul – sickness with a dam-
aged insouciance. Even when he was charged, and brutal,
he seemed resigned. He sang his sharply apprehensive
songs in the spirit of:
I’ll get this off my chest
and then get my chest off me.
This music that rocked – that could go the distance,
from here to there and beyond – hung inside a sense
of sadness and waste and emptiness. And so, more and
more, a mental and physical exhaustion, as if Curtis was
transferring himself into the very body of the music, slip-
ping over the line from where the music was for him to
where he was for the music. The music was taking him
away. Taking him over. Needing the drama of his life. And
so more drama. And so more. And so the sin always rises.
And so Ian lived his (rock and roll) life intensely to such
depths. And so the love and alarm of ‘Love will tear us
apart’. And so you can tell exactly – around an unknown
centre – when his life started to end. (And, somewhere
else, when it started to begin. You can even hear when
he started to believe in death. It’s right there in the way
his voice forms and reforms).
And so there was Ian Curtis leading the band who were
all playing their instruments as if they were leading. Three
lead instruments – the glass and capering Sumner guitars,
the cold and anxious Morris drums, the iron and lurid Hook
bass – plus spare and marooned noises off and noises in
that acted as if they had an (ectoplasmic) ego all of their
own and were leading ... plus Ian with his tragic voice and
his antic dancing and his leading the group and us into ...
... his space.
A space that hung around the music like a tarnished
halo, a space that seemed to fill the music out from within,
a space that kept itself buttoned up even as it spilled the
beans and lost its marbles.
The space in Joy Division’s music has always been
intriguing. Somehow (one more time) the group could
leave such emptiness in the middle – and at the edges of
their music – without weakening it. In fact, it added to the
strength, the resonance. Perhaps it came out of the space
they were all leaving around themselves – even as they
came together to make this music they kept themselves to
themselves, they stayed trapped inside their own splendid
isolation, stuck inside their own young minds. They all
played and sung inside their own worlds. Privacy X 4 –
And so their music is, sure enough, about isolation,
and the difficulties of keeping in touch with other human
beings as we create for safety’s sake a reality around us
that works for us as much as it can. It’s about the mind –
as far as my mind is concerned – and the tricks that it
plays on itself, it’s about the way (one way) the mind can
find all sorts of ways (link the ways) to prize apart illusion
and reality and then cobble them back together and then
start all over again and so on.
And so to the songs, again and again because they just
do not wear out whatever you take from them, wherever
you take them. Somewhere in there, amidst other more
secretive and even more catastrophic narratives, you can
just make out Ian’s battle for self–preservation, a battle
that he was winning and then he was losing. These songs
were lifted beyond themselves by being somehow – as
far as it can go, if this isn’t too far fetched – set inside
the enclosed, abstract and echoing space of a mind which
enveloped the songs from all sides like a prison. This is
some illusion. And so some reality. Ian's mind somehow –
how this is so is on the tip of my tongue – held the songs
in volatile place. And so I suppose, this time, that I’m say-
ing with the music, we can see inside his mind. And we
see him just beginning to think ideas he only has so much
time to formulate, ideas and thoughts that are about, with
such boyish bravado, everything and then nothing.
And so he re–enters the shadows of his living night, the
overnight that strangled his everything and then nothing.
And so ideas, forgotten, abandoned, miscarried.
And so Ian Curtis. He gave Joy Division their life and
their death. He gave Joy Division his life and his death.
He gave them their specialness. He actually risked his
neck. And so what was the fucking point of that. (The
point: not the point). He was under – crisis and he passed
this sense of crisis – real and imagined – right into the