Monday, December 18

A Quick One While I'm Away

Random MP3 connection of the day - The Ramones "Beat On The Brat" and Joy Division "Love Will Tear Us Apart".

"Beat On The Brat" is slower than I sing it in my head, very controlled and restrained in many ways. There is tension, as the song builds and you expect it to lurch forward wildly, but instead The Ramones hold it on the edge. Rather coolly in fact; they lock in the groove, and don't really modulate at all. No song about gleeful, wanton violence has ever been this controlled.

Joy Division are clenched equally but for an opposite reason - no explosion, no outward aggression, just an impending implosion held in check. The simple keyboard line on "Love Will Tear Us Apart" does double duty, giving guidance to the notes of the chorus Ian Curtis hints at but doesn't reach, and to blunt the attack of the drums. That drum tone is shockingly crisp, a biting cold snapping at your ears.

Neither Tommy Ramone nor Stephen Morris are given much credit in their respective band's critical biographies, though Tommy's replacement Marky has often pointed out the difficulty of replicating Tommy's style. The aural distinctiveness of the time keepers hold both these songs on a razor's edge, and back-to-back listening made me appreciate them both all the more.

5 comments:

Alex in NYC said...

Astute points on both. The sad thing in the Ramones' case is that prior to his death, Johnny Ramone didn't think Tommy's contributions were anything to crow about (despite Marky's numerous proclamations to the difficulty in mastering the patented Tommy Ramone style).

Ian said...

I always got the impression that Morris was fairly lauded... or does Hannett tend to get the credit (not all of which he deserves)?

Erik said...

In my experience, Morris has taken a backseat to Hannett. I freely admit I'm not a huge Joy Division fan, so perhaps there has been some work done that has rectified the situation. The cult of Hannett has only grown over the years, and between that and Curtis' passing little seems to be said about the musicianship in Joy Division.

It may be a case much like with the Ramones - those in the know have great respect for Tommy even if most press and critics seem not to.

Ian said...

That's weird - I'm a pretty big fan of pretty much everything Joy Division has ever done, and I've always though of them as almost freakishly virtuosic - Hook's bass playing and Curtis' vocals, sure, but also Sumner and Morris. No idea what the going consensus is.

(that second link, by the way, is one of my favourite pieces of writing I did in 2006, to toot my own horn)

Erik said...

Nice writing Ian - as you said, that second piece is special. I think people appreciate the sound of Joy Division, but get sidetracked easily by the accompanying mythology.

I think in general it is an easy out to use external context as justification; if more people would talk about the recorded music as an object instead of a subject, it might be possible to listen openly instead of prejudge. I fall victim to this as much as anyone, as the information available through the internet is overwhelming.

It might be why I love hearing a band I know nothing about - like, say The Goslings! They're a couple, I think in Florida, and that is the sum of my knowledge. All I can focus on is the sound, and that is enough. I don't need context of scene or culture or anything to like or dislike their sound - it either works or it doesn't. I'll toot my own horn in return and link to a piece I wrote about Dizzee Rascal in early '04. It still reads okay.