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.