February 12, 2010
The usual Tuesday evening in the Indieanorak household: 40-something dad facebooking, you-tubing, googling; teenage daughters watching latest teen hormone vampire thing. Suddenly my ears prick up. Isn’t the theme to Vampire Diaries a cover of Temptation? 40 something dad now animated; teenage daughters bemused/embarrassed. I quickly google “New Order Temptation cover” and up pops Moby. I knew the vegan elf had done a rather drab version of New Dawn Fades but I didn’t know he’d done a version of NO’s finest hour. And a rather lovely version at that.
It got me thinking that there really aren’t many great, or even good cover versions of Joy Division and New Order songs. No-one has done what Johnny Cash managed with Hurt. Pity Rick Rubin didn’t get him to cover Atmosphere.
It started badly with Paul Young’s desecration of Love Will Tear Us Apart. Grace Jones’ version of She’s Lost Control is more about Grace than the original – although anything with Sly and Robbie will always be decent. I like Therapy’s version of Isolation, but prefer the Smashing Pumpkin’s. Neither match the beauty of the original. The Killers’ version of Shadowplay is OK too and Radiohead’s note perfect rendition of Ceremony is from the heart.
I google ‘Joy Division covers’ and see on the splendid Joy Division Central that there have been hundreds:some by fellow Factory friends – ACR; The Names; Section 25; some surprising ones – The Divine Comedy doing Atmosphere; and some plain bizarre – PJ Proby singing Love Will Tear Us Apart.
LWTUA seems to be the most frequently covered JD song – from Jah Division’s dub to Susanna and the Magical Orchestra’s acoustic. I used to like Frente’s acoustic version of Bizarre Love Triangle and and Flunk’s acoustic cover of Blue Monday too, but the novelty quickly wore off.
The truth is, whenever Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Ian Curtis got together in a studio, especially if Martin Hannett was at the controls, then something alchemical happened. The whole was greater than the sum of the parts and that magic will never ever be replicated. No one will ever obsessively create his own aural universe like Hannett did, or suffer for his art like Ian Curtis. Even without the two of them New Order managed to retain the spark that made them special.
There is one cover version I’ll always cherish though. My 30th birthday bash above a pub in Camden. A band called Pullover, friends at the time, finished their set with Bizarre Love Triangle just for me. Lovely.