If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the half-century history of rock ‘n’ roll, it’s “leave ’em laughing,” an old show-biz adage from which we can extrapolate the wisdom, “leave ’em wanting more.” And one of the best ways to leave fans desperately craving more, as a rock star, is to burn out and die young. Brian De Palma even made a movie about the syndrome, Phantom of the Paradise. And now Control, new on DVD, pays tribute to short-lived Brit alt-rock band Joy Division and its late lead singer, Ian Curtis, who hanged himself in early 1980.
Now, no disrespect to Curtis or Joy Division, but our real focus should be New Order, the band which rose from Joy Division’s ashes. And the truth is, there have been fine films focusing on New Order, namely 24 Hour Party People. That’s not to mention DVDs such as New Order 316, New Order 511, New Order Story and New Order: A Collection.
But Joy Division and Control are the flavor of the moment, with that disc to be followed June 17 by a rockumentary on the band, also titled Joy Division. And the question is: Why all the fuss? And the answer is? Because Curtis died young.
For fans, the June 17 disc might be your best bet, because Control too often meanders in the mundane. Curtis actually had a rather dull middle-class life with a wife and kid and boring job, and the film never truly gets under his skin or into his self-destructive impulses. But you can certainly savor the music, including Sam Riley as Curtis marching-in-place before his mic and the band delivering with gritty gusto.
Great band. Great singer. But an early death tends to blow things out of proportion. You want to really be entertained? Try New Order.
Oh yes — they’re still alive and all, so they’re not as interesting, I guess. But they are one helluva band. I even like their later albums more than most people — when Joy Division was in their distant past, while a vibrant New Order kicked booty. Give me Republic or Get Ready any day and I am one happy “turn it to 11” camper.