To mark the 40th anniversary of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis’ death, Mark Lanegan teamed up with Cold Cave for an icy rendition of “Isolation,” a track off of Joy Division’s final album, 1980’s Closer.
Lanegan joined Cold Cave in a room for a live performance, singing side by side and trading vocals with the dark-wave band’s frontman, Wes Eisold. Lanegan nods along to the beat, looking as though he’s absorbing the vibe, as the group plays the tune’s skittery rhythms and chilly synth lines.
The performance was part of the online event Moving Through Silence: Celebrating the Life of Ian Curtis, which also featured tributes and reminiscences by the Killers’ Brandon Flowers and members of New Order — the group that Joy Division’s members formed after Curtis’ death. The full, nearly three-hour event is still available on United We Stream’s Facebook page.
Curtis died by suicide on May 18th, 1980, two months before the release of Closer. The remaining members formed New Order later that year and paid tribute to Curtis on their nearly 18-minute song “Elegia,” which came out on their 1985 album, Low-Life.
In the broadcast, former Joy Division guitarist Bernard Sumner, who has fronted New Order since that band formed, reflected on meeting Curtis for the first time, at a punk gig. “I met Ian and his friend, confusingly [also] called Ian, and called them the two Ians [that night],” he said. “And then [later] put an advert at Virgin Records in Piccadilly to try to find a singer. I was the only one who had a phone. I just got a load of idiots ringing up and people who weren’t on the same wavelength or [were] crazy, or called up and put the phone down. I thought, ‘Jesus.’ And it was going on and on.
“And then the last phone call I got, I picked it up and started talking to this guy,” he continued, “and thought, ‘He sounds all right and he’s into the kind of music we’re into — the Clash and Sex Pistols and Lou Reed and Iggy and all that, and Kraftwerk. … That was the first question I asked [people]: ‘What kind of music do you like?’ So, he was into the same music, and then we got talking and I thought, ‘This guy sounds all right. He sounds OK.’ And then I found out he was one of the two Ians that I’d met. … I said, ‘All right, you’ve got the job. You’re the singer.’ “
Lanegan — who has covered several Joy Division songs, including “Atmosphere,” “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” and “Dead Souls” at gigs over the years — recently released a memoir, Sing Backwards and Weep, and a new album, Straight Songs of Sorrow.
He reflected on the process of writing the book — which includes often-devastating stories about Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, and Layne Staley, among others — in an interview with Rolling Stone. “Writing this was like being buried under a mountain of just shitty memories every day,” he said. “And I remember [my friends] being like, ‘Oh, you’re gonna get the most cathartic experience out of this. It’s gonna put all these ghosts to bed.’ And I was like, ‘Dude, the ghosts have been put to bed. Now, they’ve all woke up.’ “