Ian Curtis once said, Thirty-one years ago today, he committed suicide, on the eve of Joy Division's first North American Tour. His last performance was at Birmingham University on May 2, 1980–his last song, “Digital.”
The English post-punk legends released their debut album Unknown Pleasures in 1979, followed by Closer in 1980. Their songs have been covered hundreds and hundreds of times, ranging from a dubstep version of “She's Lost Control” to a danceable version of “No Love Lost,” but few can hold a candle to the originals. We remember Curtis now on the anniversary of his death with our favorite Joy Division cover songs.
5. José González – “Love Will Tear Us Apart”
“Love Will Tear Us Apart” is probably Joy Division's best known song so naturally there are a million covers of it floating around. We picked Jose José González's acoustic version from a Washington, D.C. show because of the quiet intensity of his voice. (Swans did another great version, but the audio quality in the video isn't so spectacular.)
Low – “Transmission”
Low's cover of “Transmission” appeared on their 1995 record, A Means to an End, and it's a beautiful tribute. They captured the emotion behind the song–far more important than mimicking the sound–and made it their own, while still paying homage to the post-punk original.
Radiohead – “Ceremony”
“Ceremony” was only played by Joy Division live once–on the last show before Curtis died. It's a fairly faithful cover, and we liked it because Curtis' words sung by Thom Yorke against the killer drumming of Phil Selway is a solid combination.
The Horrors – “No Love Lost”
“No Love Lost” is a lovely song and the Horrors did a killer cover of it. Singer Faris Badwan's snarl is scathing and the organs are a nice touch. (LCD Soundsystem did a pretty good job with “No Love Lost,” but we prefer the Horrors version.)
Nine Inch Nails – “Dead Souls”
NIN frontman Trent Reznor's been a long-time fan and his version of one of Joy Division's most haunting songs is one of the best we've ever seen.