Tuesday, October 10, 2017

You Don't Have to Listen to Joy Division Anymore - Kate and Depression Lite - 1987

It was 1987. After a difficult breakup (one of those you can't shake; one of those that you wanted to break off, but when she beat you to it, it was devastating), it had been a year of sad Beach Boy songs and her songs (Cocteau Twins' "Heaven or Las Vegas," The Cure's "Plainsong") dark days, rainy days (for a year it rained), those feel like you were dead days, ...and then, Kate. I knew that I was getting somewhere when she told me that I didn't have to listen to Joy Division anymore. The truth of the matter was that this had never occurred to me; one did not simply stop listening to Joy Division. Listening to these seminal post-punk gods was my professional responsibility as a writer, and, as a long-time self-imposed depressive, an obligation. Kate, so much younger at 19, shelved her depression with The Smiths, you know, Depression Lite.

I first heard The Smiths' "Rubber Ring" when I was 18 years old. I was devastated by Morrissey's suggestion that "the most impassioned song to a lonely soul is so easily outgrown" and I decided that I would never let that happen. I vowed that I would not forget the songs that made me cry; indeed Joy Division was my rubber ring. They were the ones I turned to during my bouts of misery and despair. There was a wry smirk and a meta hint of self-awareness hiding in the undercurrents of Morrissey songs, and The Cure always came with the risk of something blisteringly mirthful ("Love Cats"), should one stray too far from Disintegration. But there was no joy to be found anywhere in Joy Division's oeuvre. Beauty, yes. Even the most angry and angular of early tracks like "Warsaw" and "No Love Lost" had a gorgeous, haunted quality to them. Almost every lyric that Ian Curtis wrote expressed the most brutal things that can happen to a brain and a soul with both precision and poetry. And few songs will ever approach the aching perfection of "Atmosphere," with or without Teletubbies. All of that Gothic beauty is relentless, though, and it started to wear on me. 

And then, by chance I met Kate at the Lhasa Club, and after too many G&Ts I starting ranting, I'm sure, about my  ridiculous Joy Division issues and telling her that the only thing sadder than a night alone with "Shadowplay" as a shoulder to cry on, was a crowd of hipster/poseurs lurching around to the utterly undanceable "Love Will Tear Us Apart," chasing the beat and their youth with about the same amount of success. She said, "You might want to switch brands."

I used to think that the one great thing about being a music-loving loner and misfit was that artists and songs became your friends, your confidants and, yes, your rubber ring when no one else was there for you. I still believe that, really, but now I realize that a relationship with a band can be just as toxic and ill-fated as any human one. And sometimes, regardless of one's history, you have to walk away before your love for them tears you apart. I don't know what happened to Kate, and yet, when I'm dancing and laughing/ And finally living/ Hear my voice in your head/ And think of me kindly.