152. Joy Division – ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ (1980)

“Do you cry out in your sleep
All my failings exposed
Get a taste in my mouth
As desperation takes hold
Is it something so good
Just can’t function no more?
When love
Love will tear us apart, again”

Taken from the album Substance 1977-1980

Also released on The Peel Sessions, Permanent, Heart And Soul, The Complete BBC Recordings, Les Bains Douches 18 December 1979, Let The Movie Begin and The Best Of Joy Division

UK #13

I’m not a massive Joy Division fan, and I wouldn’t say I was any sort of expert on their music. I only own Substance and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is the only song of theirs on this list. Popular opinion and my instincts tell me that this song is the best they did, although I of course can’t say that without listening to everything the band released. What I can say with some certainty, however, is that the raw emotions found on ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ are among the most confronting and honest that I have ever heard.

As that first chord rings out and the drums begin, you could be forgiven for thinking ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ will be a jaunty upbeat song, but as soon as the vocals start it’s clear that this is not what it seems. The song is catchy but not made for radio, immediately connecting with the audience and yet completely inaccessible. The sad, desperate lyrics are slightly hidden by being mixed not too far forward of the drums, and if you weren’t properly listening you could easily be misled about the song’s subject.

Even if the vocals are muffled and the depressing nature of the song disguised by a nice melody, there is still that devestating title line, repeated in the chorus: love will tear us apart. The song was released as a single in April 1980, but it was not until Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division, committed suicide in May that the song would become a success. It was the last song released during his lifetime, and fittingly, the words “love will tear us apart” were inscribed on his memorial stone.


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