sorry to say, i got into DEPECHE MODE late. like the end of my 20s late. and i dont know why that is.
i really never had anything against SYNTH POP or ELECTRONIC MUSIC per se. in fact, i was a fan since childhood of peer groups like NEW ORDER, PET SHOP BOYS, TEARS FOR FEARS and ELECTRONIC as well as later related experimental acolyte groups such as LADYTRON, ROYKSOPP, DAFT PUNK, HOT CHIP, LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, MASSIVE ATTACK, HOLY GHOST! and NEON INDIAN. and that is not even counting the likes of longtime obsessions like DEVO and KRAFTWERK. but nevertheless DEPECHE MODE escaped me.
i got into them during my brief time in KUKES, when i was working as a PEACE CORPS volunteer in ALBANIA. i remember meeting with RADIO KUKESI, which was the publicly operated station that had a SOCIALIST-REALIST decorated exterior from the 1960s. when my fellow volunteers and i had initiatives within the city, our contacts at this station would publicize such. but in many ways the vibe of that isolated northern ALBANIA town near the foothills of the ALBANIAN ALPS still seemed as CONSTRICTED and OSSIFIED as that of its recent COMMUNIST past a little over a generation before. wealth creation through CAPITALISM was slow going and once proud merchants and farmers had to deal with the relative DISAPPOINTMENT of being small fish in an over-saturated, hyper-competitive marketplace with the likes of ITALY, GREECE and states that emerged from the former YUGOSLAVIA.
it was within this context that i discovered DEPECHE MODE and, like most people, that included their seminal VIOLATOR (MUTE, 1990) release. to my ears their mechanical yet emotionally nuanced sound really fit the CLAUSTROPHOBIC atmosphere of a living within a post-COMMMUNIST EASTERN BLOC state perfectly. there is a palpable sense on tracks like "WORLD IN MY EYES," "CLEAN," "POLICY OF TRUTH" and "HALO" of being in a prolonged UNEASY state of general PARANOIA. with the exception of MYANMAR, living in rural northern ALBANIA is unlike other situations ive lived within in that there is a profound sense of cultural and historical distance, as if the country is beyond such CONSTRAINTS. its not even like living in a TIME WARP, KUKES was like living in a situation that was beyond history, such was the impact of their prolonged ISOLATION under a militant COMMUNIST DICTATORSHIP. being in that situation in a sense felt like my own sense of IDENTITY was discarded in favor of this POST-CULTURAL and POST-HISTORICAL context. how do you talk about events for which most people have no reference point. it was a bizarre but thrilling situation. and tracks like "SWEETEST PERFECTION," "PERSONAL JESUS" and especially "ENJOY THE SILENCE" was the soundtrack to sense of having your IDENTITY wiped clean.
so oddly when i hear DEPECHE MODE, any era, it basically takes me back to living and working in KUKES. the land that time forgot.
parodies by nacrowe
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their catalogue speaks for itself.
the BRITISH indie label CREATION RECORDS during its run had some massively seminal and influential bands, everyone from PRIMAL SCREAM, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, TEENAGE FANCLUB, RIDE, SLOWDIVE and THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN to SUPER FURRY ANIMALS, THE HOUSE OF LOVE, SWERVEDRIVER, SUGAR, SAINT ETIENNE and, of course, OASIS. culturally the label is very much synonymous with the two BRITISH INDIE ROCK exports of the period, SHOEGAZE and BRITPOP. and while all of those bands get their spot in the documentary UPSIDE DOWN: THE CREATION RECORDS STORY (DOCUMENT FILMS, 2010), the focus is on its founder all around INDIE ROCK pied piper, ALAN MCGEE.
the label is very much created in the image of MCGEE, who was a SCOTTISH punk who made his way down to LONDON with his band subsequently decided to put out music by his friends. and that tribal bond was basically the defining ethos of CREATION RECORDS throughout its run. in the film MCGEE even attests to the fact that he signed interesting, creative people and not bands. needless to say, thats an odd tactic but definitely describes the innovative people he brought into the fold including KEVIN SHIELDS, BOBBY GILLESPIE, GRUFF RHYS and NOEL GALLAGHER.
what i found interesting is how the story of CREATION RECORDS mirrors that of other artistic-minded labels in their peer group, many that came out of the existing POST PUNK scene of the previous generation like FACTORY RECORDS. these INDIE ROCK labels were seemingly fronts for producing great art rather than being a functioning business with longterm economic targets and vertically integrated efficiencies. CREATION RECORDS pre-OASIS was in a constant state of owing money to recording studios, printing presses and the like and was under constant threat of being eaten up by a major. its ironic that the period that saw the label at its mid-1990s cultural zenith, the period around OASIS' second record WHAT'S THE STORY (MORNING GLORY)?, also marked their fall into eventually being consolidated and sold to SONY. MCGEE during the entire OASIS period had hit a wall with his drug use and saw him through a long recovery which meant his non-presence at the label allowed for the implementation of structural changes which in turn weakened his hand. this led to the label being swallowed up by a major, who of course had no idea what to do with its idiosyncratic and eccentric catalogue.
but the fact that the label ended in 1999 doesnt reduce its impact. its arguable that the label nurtured the BRITISH INDIE ROCK scene post-SMITHS throughout the late 80s and 90s and laid the groundwork for what would be the last great global rock phenomenon in OASIS. once that genie is out of the bottle its arguable that their legacy was cemented and where do you go from there?
i dont know.
but growing up overseas this label's catalogue was essentially synonymous with my young adulthood, especially MY BLOODY VALENTINE and SLOWDIVE. i love the guy just for giving world those two bands. definitely check out this documentary if you have any interest in music history or ALTERNATIVE ROCK and INDIE ROCK bands from the 1980s and 1990s including SHOEGAZE and BRITPOP. thoroughly enjoyable and required viewing.
discovering DEVO on a family trip to GREECE was one of the highlights of my high school years. at the time my family was stationed in KUWAIT and the culture and school environment was culturally and socially CONSERVATIVE in the extreme. the band may have been a NEW WAVE / POST PUNK ART project that utilized a stilted, ironic, DADA-inspired visual and aural aesthetic to both critique and poke fun at the rigid hypocrisy corporate AMERICA, but for me at the time i felt like i was living in an absurd ORWELLIAN reality.
because i kind of was.
everything about going to school and living in KUWAIT was absurd. reading about what amounted to honor killings in the english-language newspapers, being unable to mention non-MUSLIM or non-CHRISTIAN SCIENTISTS, PHILOSOPHERS or LEADERS at school or being unable to hang out with my classmates in public without being harassed by KUWAITI men. it was an OPPRESSIVE environment where the innocuous was deemed TRANSGRESSIVE. i dont want to come off culturally insensitive here, as i can already assume some criticism from my past comments along the lines of "it is their country." this is true, but KUWAIT is rotten to its core in how it exploits foreign labor and oppresses non-ARAB MUSLIMS and limits free thought. there is no progression or forward momentum, its a stilted country that is well behind its direct EMIRATI competition for cultural hub of the MIDDLE EAST to which it aspires.
anyway, that was the context from which i grew to love DEVO as they seemed to by a collective that seemingly identified a sense of freedom and discovery within its self-determined creative limitations. robotic drums and cold, stabbing synth lines seemed to accurately encapsulate the stark lyrical bent of MARK MOTHERSBAUGH throughout NEW TRADITIONALISTS (WARNER BROS, 1981) amid his lyrics regarding personal liberation from the REPRESSION of POLITE SOCIETY ("JERKIN' BACK 'N' FORTH"), SOCIAL EXPECTATIONS ("THROUGH BEING COOL"), GLOBAL GEOPOLITICS ("BEAUTIFUL WORLD") and INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS ("LOVE WITHOUT ANGER," "RACE OF DOOM," "SOFT THINGS"). basically everything. even the title feels paradoxically both TRANSGRESSIVE and OPTIMISTIC, as if to look forward you must disregard and move beyond the past by creating new traditions, new ideas and new solutions.
the obvious highlight of the album is "BEAUTIFUL WORLD" which is one of the most divinely TRANSCENDENT (and BITTER) songs of all-time. with its soaring synth refrain and upbeat lyrics that seemingly celebrate all the PROMISE, INGENUITY and potential for global SOCIAL HARMONY that mankind is capable of in an impossibly OPTIMISTIC fever dream, only to utterly subvert it completely with the line "it's a beautiful world for you. not me." "BEAUTIFUL WORLD" is the ultimate song about being completely disconnected from society, its tone and beauty only serve to fuel that sense of REJECTION, ISOLATION and a caustic sense of REPULSION at the outer world. without doubt my favorite DEVO song and probably top three favorite song of all-time (i'm also partial to THE ANIMALS' "DON'T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD" since childhood and "RUBBER RING" by THE SMITHS).
i could not advocate anymore strongly for the NEW TRADITIONALISTS album. required listening in my view, irrespective of your opinion of the merits of NEW WAVE, POST PUNK or even SYNTH POP. it is a TRANSCENDENT record that is most definitely worth checking out.
the doomed DARKWAVE atmospherics and POST PUNK angularity of PORTLAND-based SOFT KILL gets me right my sweet spot. i am a total sucker for bands that mix pop hooks with a healthy dose of SHOEGAZE-esque guitar layering and an ominous palpable sense of dread. obvious similar bands include DRAB MAJESTY, COLD CAVE and, of course, JOY DIVISION.
i am keeping an eye on this band and they are most definitely worth checking out.
with the advent of modern social media and the internet as the central focus of commerce and our economy writ large, its always interesting to see how major retailers attempt to catch out attention and pique our interest. instrument and music products retailer REVERB.COM a few years back came up with the YOUTUBE series SYNTH SOUNDS OF as a means of drawing attention to the keyboards, sequencers and various software, both vintage and contemporary, they have on offer.
the series showcases musician / producer WILLIAM KIRK who guides the audience through the compositional ingenuity and sonic experimentalism at play in classic songs primarily from the 1970s and 1980s FUNK, NEW WAVE, DISCO and SYNTH POP catalogue. im talking about acts such as TEARS FOR FEARS, PRINCE, DEPECHE MODE, TOTO, GIORGIO MORODER, HALL & OATES, TALKING HEADS, PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC, MADONNA, TALK TALK and even recent acolytes like BRUNO MARS and FRANK OCEAN. i originally found the series when researching what the vintage SEQUENCIAL CIRCUITS PROPHET 5 our studio had inherited from my cousin was capable of.
KIRK is knowledgeable, personable and absolutely ridiculous (i still cant handle those MEMBERS ONLY jackets!), which makes this series fun and engaging. he seems to get the feel of the period and is respectful without being too reverential in the process. SYNTH SOUNDS OF may have failed in getting me to buy anything, but it has beyond succeeded in making me more conscious of the artistry involved in the use of electronic keyboards, pads, triggers and vintage analog synths.
and it made me dance. so there.
what is there not to love about the TEXAS DARKWAVE / POST PUNK revival duo TWIN TRIBES? the sparse yet melodic, synth-heavy sound of LOIS NAVARRO and JOEL NINO feels like the perfect comedown from an all nighter. it feels like something LYDIA from BEETLEJUICE (WARNER BROS, 1988) would be excited about while living her life in one big dark room.
TWIN TRIBES is probably my favorite discovery outside of DRAB MAJESTY from a few years back. hits that same sinister sweet spot. definitely worth checking out.
i just love how SAN FRANCISCO INDIE ROCK band POW! takes the best the nervous, skittish rhythms of POST PUNK and marries them with the synth-ed out madness of classic NEW WAVE. it is such a refreshing sound that doesnt attempt to hid its experimental nature without sacrificing melodic pop hooks. it is quite the balance and really quite an achievement.
POW! is most definitely worth checking out.
my family left IRELAND three generations ago in the early part of the 20th century, relocating to NEW YORK CITY. i carry an IRISH surname that traces its roots back to the small village of CAPPAWHITE just outside of LIMERICK in COUNTY TIPPERARY. in my teens i was lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit IRELAND with my family and witness a part of my heritage that really i only primarily knew through music.
specifically that of THE POGUES and U2.
whereas THE POGUES in my mind represent the complex mindset and identity of the IRISH DIASPORA, U2 seems (especially during their early career) to be a stridently modern IRISH band. influenced by the sonic experimentalism and lyrical insularity of POST PUNK, their early output seems militantly focused on presenting a vision of an IRELAND that is full of dignity and passion, as well as vulnerability.
WAR (ISLAND, 1983) in particular to me is the soundtrack and aural memory of the interpersonal brutality and cultural devastation that was THE TROUBLES. standout tacks such as "SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY" and "NEW YEARS DAY" showcase the personal toll of growing up when such unceasing and indiscriminate violence was occurring with little end in sight. those songs may be located in a specific geography and time related to IRISH HISTORY, but for me growing up it was a touchstone when traveling and encountering sites of human cruelty, tragedy, despair and mass casualties in other locations in KOSOVO, CAMBODIA, BOSNIA and GHANA (CAPE COAST CASTLE). that is not to say that these songs are sullen or depressing, in fact its the opposite. they are anthems to the human spirit of persevering and carrying on despite every evidence to the contrary that all is lost and humanity is depraved.
BONO is often mocked (sometimes rightfully so) for his often quixotic megalomania with regard to global initiatives. but i see that sort of inner fire, that very IRISH sense of empathy percolating first through these early songs in which he put his passion and sense of moral righteousness in his music. these songs touched me as a child and informed me of what it meant to be IRISH, that of being lost and itinerant yet never losing a sense of self or empathy for the other; essentially being at home in the world and finding commonality with all, including your enemies. maybe the dude was secretly BUDDHIST. regardless, i consider this album a deeply IRISH album that i return to from time to time when thinking about my ancestors and starting anew in a new country. something i have done several times on several continents.
sometimes you come across a musician that is hard to pin down on first listen and seem wholly original yet strangely an extension of what you are familiar with beforehand. im thinking of songwriters and performers like BJORK and TRICKY who had antecedents in experimental ELECTRONIC MUSIC and HIP HOP, but took such influences to another new terrain.
thats kind of how i feel about KING KRULE, the creative project of ARCHY IVAN MARSHALL, that incorporates everything from TRIP HOP and INDIE ROCK to JAZZ FUSION and POST PUNK. its a heady eclectic mix but is cohesive through his unique persona and reflective yet opaque lyrics.
KING KRULE is definitely worth check out.
what i love about DETROIT's standout POST PUNK-influenced INDIE ROCK band PROTOMARTYR is their ability to be genuinely weird. and by that i dont mean they are attempting to be different for the sake of being noticed, more that you get the sense that they are presenting their authentic selves. it feels too often that ROCK MUSIC is sanitized and neat around the edges. with their angular guitar riffs, love of dissonance and JOE CASEY's elegiac lyrics and vocal delivery (which brings to mind echos of IAN CURTIS), PROTOMARTYR are a unique band in today's scene.
definitely worth checking out.
as ive mentioned before in this forum, during my senior year of high school back in the wake of 9/11, i left my family who were stationed in the MIDDLE EAST and relocated to SACRAMENTO with a relative. it was a pretty isolating year for me, but during that period i discovered TRIP HOP artists like PORTISHEAD, MASSIVE ATTACK and TRICKY as well as POST PUNK bands like THE CURE and LOVE AND ROCKETS. and man did those artists make what woudve been a boring, lonely period seem so exciting and invigorating.
i should begin by stating that i am a big fan of LOVE AND ROCKETS guitarist DANIEL ASH and his love of looper, droning and feed-backed guitars that create an almost mantra-like experience for the listener. its a sonic texture that is very apparent in later more experimental ALTERNATIVE ROCK bands like JANE'S ADDICTION and FAITH NO MORE. this can be seen throughout the LOVE AND ROCKETS (BEGGARS BANQUET, 1989) record on standout tracks like "****(JUNGLE LAW)," "MOTORCYCLE" and "NO BIG DEAL" which both have a propulsive groove that never lets up. in fact, it is the irrepressible sense of pummeling rhythm that makes this band standout from its former incarnation in the seminal POST PUNK outfit BAUHAUS, of which all members (DANIEL ASH, DAVID J and KEVIN HASKINS) are original members of.
whats funny to me is that "SO ALIVE" was the big hit single from the record (and their catalogue in general) as it is such a sonically uncharacteristic song for the group. ASH's singing as well as the female backing vocals are more prominent in the mix than minimal bass groove that undergirds the minimalist track. my preference with regard to their more downtempo songs that explore an interior space using DELAY, CHORUS and E-BOW effects include "I FEEL SPEED" and "NO WORDS NO MORE." both those tracks really find ASH exploring interesting aural textures with unconventional riffs and chord progressions. its probably the reason i have continually revisited the LOVE AND ROCKETS catalogue since discovering back in high school.
it still sounds fresh. definitely worth checking out.
i had the good fortune a few years back to film the POST PUNK-influenced BROOKLYN INDIE ROCK band BIG BLISS at MARKET HOTEL when we were producing our OFF THE M series. what drew me to them initially was their expansive, angular sound couple with earnest, personal lyrics and an undeniable stage presence. after filming bands night in and night out for a few weeks, it was always apparent and obvious when a band was clicking, and they definitely were capable, engaging and effective musicians.
since filming them i've kept tabs on their social media and have been more than impressed with their commitment to social justice issues in the wake of the 2020 protests in response to the murder of GEORGE FLOYD. i respect this band even more now for sticking to their guns and putting themselves out there in the streets and voicing their truth.
i know they have a new record coming out so definitely keep an eye out for that. most definitely a talented local band worth checking out.
i should start by saying there are a whole slew of great CURE albums. THE HEAD ON THE DOOR (FICTION, 1985), JAPANESE WHISPERS (FICTION, 1983), PORNOGRAPHY (FICTION, 1982), WISH (FICTION, 1992), THE TOP (FICTION, 1984) KISS ME KISS ME KISS ME (FICTION, 1987) all come immediately to mind. im confident that if you talk to five different CURE fans you will be met with five different favorite albums.
of course for most fans that learned about them after the fact (like me), DISINTEGRATION (FICTION, 1989) is the obvious entry point with many crowdpleasers like "FASCINATION STREET," "LULLABY," "PLAINSONG," "PICTURES OF YOU," and "LOVE SONG." growing up an indoctrinated SMITHS fan from birth, my introduction to THE CURE was surprisingly late. i discovered them in earnest in late high school at the same time i got into other similar bands like LOVE AND ROCKETS. which in a sense makes sense as both ROBERT SMITH (THE CURE) and DANIEL ASH (BAUHAUS, LOVE AND ROCKETS, TONES ON TAIL) have a similar expressionistic approach to their guitar playing which is less about technique and more about layering and emotive use of delays and chorus effects. to that extent SMITH Is the poster child for a certain type of POST PUNK sound that directly influenced other great players like TRENT REZNOR (NINE INCH NAILS) and DAVE NAVARRO (JANE'S ADDICTION) who likewise searched out unorthodox delicate soundscapes as much as classic riffs a la JIMMY PAGE (LED ZEPPELIN).
aside from being renowned for his guitar-playing, for me what makes THE CURE special and especially the DISINTEGRATION album in particular is the alchemy of his voice and lyrics within that unique emotive sonic bed. THE CURE offer a world into themselves. it is almost cinematic. i remember being a teenager away from family living with a relative in CALIFORNIA and DISINTEGRATION was like a cloak i could wear to separate me from the outside world. there is a real sense of interiority with this album and it really got me through me tough times. i remember seeing THE CURE play at their namesake CURIOSA FESTIVAL in 2004 at RANDALL's ISLAND and it being an odd experience. namely the idea of being in a group event for a band that had such a commanding hold over my emotional inner dialogue was a little unnerving and uncomfortable if that makes any sense. havent had that experience before or since but seems a testament to the power of the band and the unique songwriting abilities of ROBERT SMITH.
special album by a very special band that is dear to my heart. well worth rediscovering.
i recently came across the BRITISH POST-PUNK / INDIE ROCK band SHOPPING and have come to appreciate not only their angular riffs and infectious circular melodies, but also their quirky and highly original videos.
to my ears their sound seems to split the difference between GANG OF FOUR and TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB. its also a pleasure to hear and ENGLISH band that does not shy away from their native accents. too often that is the case, which is a curious phenomena dating back to THE BEATLES.
anyway, great band definitely worth checking out.
BOOK REVIEW | "A MULTITUDE OF SINS: GOLDEN BROWN, THE STRANGLERS AND STRANGE LITTLE GIRLS" BY HUGH CORNWELL
so full disclosure, i was basically raised on THE STRANGLERS. been told my whole life that my first concert was seeing them play in SPAIN. well sort of, i wasn't born yet. but in a sense i was there.
as i mentioned in my radio show dedicated to THE STRANGLERS back in OCTOBER 2019, my earliest music memories are being driven by my father listening to some mixture of THE SMITHS, THE KINKS, THE BEATLES, THE ANIMALS and, of course, THE STRANGLERS. im completely indoctrinated so take that for what you will.
A MULTITUDE OF SINS: GOLDEN BROWN, THE STRANGLERS AND STRANGE LITTLE GIRLS (HARPER COLLINS, 2011) by former frontman, songwriter and ringleader HUGH CORNWELL delivers what on what the title promises: tales of about sex, drugs and rock and roll. not that this book is a complete cliche for CORNWELL is a gifted writer and storyteller, which should come as a surprise to no one familiar with his song lyrics. his writing style is very conversational and stream-of-conscious and often sifts back and forth from one anecdote to the next that span both geography and time. you'd think that would make it hard to follow but everything flows remarkably well and is intensely engaging. the result is a very personal narrative that almost feels like you are hearing it from a gifted orator a few stools down at a local pub.
chapters are organized according to subject and CORNWELL at the outset invites the reader to get out of it what they want. if voyeuristic anecdotes about drugs and sex is what you are after, then he points you in the direction of those chapters right at the introduction.
for me personally i always viewed THE STRANGLERS as a bunch of misfits that didnt fit the time that well yet ironically were the perfect band for that time. as CORNWELL explains, the band was too young and not musical enough to be part of the ENGLISH PUB ROCK scene in of the mid-1970s yet too old and musically accomplished to be a part of the original PUNK scene that followed shortly thereafter. their sound is identified with POST PUNK (hell, i even categorized them as such on my show and in the DEER GOD RADIO list of shows) but they were chronologically concurrent peers of JOE STRUMMER and the like. their sound is massively influential converting acolytes in ENGLAND everyone from NEW ORDER to WIRE to ELASTICA. but all that music critic bullshit doesnt really matter, to me their music is both complex and deliberate, their lyrics sarcastic and literary yet entirely sincere and soberly brutal.
the section of the book i found most compelling was the inclusion of writings he produced shortly after his time in prison for a trumped-up drug charge in ENGLAND. they are based on interviews he did apparently. they showcase an individual with a strong sense of moral clarity and fairness, even for his captors, in a situation that is meant to browbeat and strip individuality. his empathy for those working at the prison, whose position dehumanizes them as well, is pretty remarkable. for me, understanding his capacity to put himself outside himself, even during a moment of great stress, seems to share something about voyeuristic nature of songwriting itself. his songs seem to be about the emotional backage that come with decisions, relationships and situations, not the actual things themselves. that emotional intelligence and ability to empathize with others seems to be a cornerstone of his prowess as a gifted writer and songwriter.
makes perfect sense after learning of his ordeal in prison. interesting stuff.
the ENGLISH INDIE ROCK trio THE XX has always hit a sweet spot for me. i know they are celebrated on the other side of the ATLANTIC and have even won a MERCURY PRIZE, but really none of that matters much.
they just make highly affecting music which seems to be a progression on the expansive emotive soundscapes created by past bands like RADIOHEAD, THE PIXIES and MASSIVE ATTACK. definitely check them out as well as the solo work by member JAMIE xx.
TOUCHING FROM A DISTANCE: IAN CURTIS & JOY DIVISION (FABER & FABER, 1995) by DEBORAH CURTIS is a unique memoir in that it tackles an uncommon subject in the world of music biographies: wives and family. maybe it is because the ethos of ROCK N ROLL is prone to promote a juvenile escapist fantasy that by design does not include more adult themes like responsibility, maturity and accountability. but whats interest is that partners like DEBORAH CURTIS, widow of IAN CURTIS (frontman of MANCUNIAN POST-PUNKS legends JOY DIVISION), provide the support and sacrifice, both emotional and financial, to make such artistic fantasies a reality.
IAN CURTIS and the music of JOY DIVISION have resonated in the generations since their demise. IAN's suicide and his battles with epilepsy have colored his legacy with an aura of mystique and intrigue similar to that of KURT COBAIN, AMY WINEHOUSE, JIM MORRISON, JANIS JOPLIN, JIMI HENDRIX and the list goes on. it is a testament to her own sense of inner strength and personal conviction that DEBORAH does not placate to such vulgar myth-making when describing her relationship with her late husband.
instead what we get is a portrait of an uneven, volatile artist who to some extent was a coward, as he cruelly inflicted pain on those who loved him most as he was impotent to affect change on the real source of his problems outside the family circle. it should be said first that IAN and DEBORAH married very young, as they were both teenagers. as such they both entered a world of domesticity neither was ready for, especially IAN. this was apparent in his exceedingly controlling and manipulative behavior towards his wife. this included controlling with whom she could speak to (including male coworkers or former school friends), what she could wear, and denying her the ability to finish school. in essence he controlled her ability to be independent. IAN is also revealed to be a political conservative who made proclamations to friends that it was her duty as a wife to vote the same. apparently also he held racist views towards ASIANS and in particular recent immigrants from INDIAN subcontinent.
as for IAN himself, he was more of a social opportunist and his behavior in keeping with typical chauvinism of the period, as DEBORAH describes he "lived his life by a conflicting code that changed depending on who was there at the time and what he could gain from it." there is a particularly heartbreaking detail provided of when DEBORAH was visibly pregnant thusly shunned and dismissed by IAN and the crew at a show. apparently she wasn't worth their time despite the fact that it as her efforts that originally helped financially sustain the band early on. how quickly they forget. another telling but equally sad detail was the fact that IAN would keep a picture of his dog CANDY in his wallet, yet kept no such mementos of his wife or infant daughter. he was proud of the dog despite the fact that he did nothing to maintain its upkeep to the point that DEBORAH had to give it away due to lack of money for food.
i want to make clear that the tone of this biography is even and unemotional. this is not a tell-all book attempting to settle old scores, even with regards to IAN's BELGIAN mistress. where this memoir excels is in its ability to provide a more well-rounded portrait of a gifted yet supremely trouble artist. she gives credit and deep thanks to the band and crew who provided support and protection on the road to IAN during his epileptic episodes.
ultimately IAN's reasons for his self-destruction were entirely his own. he was a control freak who had no choice but to cede control of his body to seizures. he was conflicted about fame and was the least capable member to guard against those that sought to exploit him. he fantasized and fetishized death from a young age. it was his choice alone.
i found this book to be quite courageous, especially given the cult around IAN CURTIS that has perpetuated after his death to this day. this is her truth.
i should also mention that this book served as the basis for the excellent ANTON CORBIJN biopic CONTROL (BECKER FILMS, 2007) filmed and released a decade after this memoir's publication.
SAVAGES is just a great straight-up ENGLISH INDIE ROCK band with angular riffage and tight song-craft in the POST PUNK tradition of groups like ELASTICA, GANG OF FOUR, THE FALL and WIRE but a bit more abrasive.
i think we are living in a golden age of POST PUNK revival with bands like this and SAVAGES as well as WARPAINT and THE XX. definitely worth checking out.
THE FALL was always the least approachable of what i consider, and i trust i am not alone here, the three great MANCUNIAN bands that arose in the wake of the PUNK movement (the others being JOY DIVISION and THE SMITHS). part of the reason for such was that i could never get my head around MARK E. SMITH, the leader and sole permanent member of THE FALL. JOY DIVISION and THE SMITHS arrived seemingly fully developed and benefited from sonically adventurous yet classically tuneful music that had a definite perspective courtesy of their legendary frontmen, IAN CURTIS and MORRISSEY respectfully.
SMITH is lyrically another beast entirely. his music is less structured and more chaotic (partly due to the constant shuffling of lineups) and his lyrics are highly obtuse. in fact i wouldnt even call the music made by THE FALL songs, they are more diatribes. makes perfect sense to me that bands like AT THE DRIVE-IN worship this group; both share a manic need to juxtapose impenetrable yet evocative poetry with intense sonic experiments that broaden the vocabulary of ROCK AND ROLL. even makes sense that THE FALL during their career wrote music and performed with a ballet company.
the documentary THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING WORLD OF MARK E. SMITH (BBC, 2005) attempts to explain this paradox of a frontman. he is highly literate, yet in essence he is most effective when communicating an aggressive attitude and swath of base emotions behind visceral yet obtuse music. a commentator in the film puts him in the company of CAPTAIN BEEFHEART and CAN. i tend to agree. his is an example of someone that makes complex music made to be pored over, analyzed and argued over, much like that of CURTIS and MORRISSEY. but his music is often in your face and hard to pin down as it is often a flurry of dissonance whizzing by you.
essentially it is music for thinking people. in other words: music nerds.
notable participants include that of FACTORY RECORDS label owner TONY WILSON, legendary radio presenter JOHN PEEL and MARK E. SMITH himself. all three have since passed on in the years since so this documentary is an invaluable resource.
this film is definitely worth checking out if you have any interest in PUNK ROCK, POST PUNK, INDIE ROCK or experimental music in general.