Released just a month before lead singer Ian Curtis’ suicide in May 1980, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is the Joy Division song you’ve heard even if you’ve never heard of Joy Division. (Its recognition factor is largely due to its promiscuous afterlife; most memorably, it lands like a shimmering exclamation point late in the haunting teen dreamscape Donnie Darko.) The song is coiled and propulsive, like so much of the classic postpunk that tore out of the northern climes of late-’70s England, and it’s shot through with a heart-swelling synth refrain. (This dynamic is the flip side of “Blue Monday” by New Order, the band that rose out of the ashes of Joy Division.) The linchpin is Curtis’ doomy baritone, mourning a withered relationship with the sad gusto of an undead cabaret singer. This song is the great canticle of the universal mopey teen. What makes it greater is that the mopey teen can grow up and find it just as useful.
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