These Were The Young Men

The album was recorded three months prior to frontman Ian Curtis' suicide.

Though the 20th century's almost over, the concept that certain figures

within popular culture, particularly within rock music, have become the

keepers of a certain flame that also burned within the breasts of young

men with names like Rimbaud, Baudelaire and Lautreamont still seems

foreign to some.

Yet history will most likely record that singers and songwriters such as

Jim Morrison of The Doors, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, and Ian Curtis of Joy

Division were the ones who extended the lineage of the aforementioned

writers and brought their dark romanticism to life within the pervasive

multimedia of our age.

It is oddly appropriate, then, that this live artifact appear now, as

the century ends on a note of materialistic greed and spiritual vacuity,

with even the supposed "peace and love" Woodstock festival ending in

flames. As the good times roll, the denial of certain realities —

such as, say, death — swings into full gear. And the consensus about

people like Morrison, Cobain and Curtis — one of whom embraced a

slow suicide and two of whom took a quicker route — is revised to

state that they were the ultimate party poopers, real downers, no fun at

all. "Now that I've realized, how it's all gone wrong/ Gotta find some

therapy, this treatment takes too long" ("Twenty-Four Hours")? Hey dude,

shut that off and cue up some Ricky Martin, quick!

Preston 28 February 1980, the first full-length live Joy Division

album, however, does more than stoke Ian Curtis' considerable dark legend.

It's a fascinating listen that reveals the fact that in the 20th century,

on any given night, you might find great art being made in the most

unlikely places, including a warehouse in Preston, England. Messrs.

Curtis, Bernard Sumner (guitar), Peter Hook (bass), and Stephen Morris

(drums) didn't sound like anyone else on the planet that night, and to

this day they remain a singular entity whose majestically gloomy yet

raucous sound can immediately transform its environment.

Highlights here include a long, ethereal version of "The Eternal" (RealAudio

excerpt), which was about to be recorded for the band's second

(and final) studio album, Closer, as was the aforementioned

"Twenty-Four Hours" (RealAudio excerpt),

with its terrifying sense of emotional dynamics. Meanwhile, the band

struggles with a rowdy audience and inferior technology (at one point,

an irritated Sumner announces that everything's being routed through the

bass amp), with a wryly bemused Curtis proclaiming "Everything's falling

apart!" at the conclusion of "Heart and Soul" (RealAudio excerpt).

Later that year, everything did: early on the morning of May 18, 1980,

Ian Curtis — beset by problems including severe epilepsy, which

made an upcoming tour of the U.S. seem an insurmountable task, as well

as a love triangle from which he could see no escape — hanged himself.

Sumner, Hook and Morris, meanwhile, went on to form the acclaimed and

highly successful New Order, who at last report were rehearsing some of

these timeless Joy Division songs for a reunion tour.