Posts Tagged ‘The Sisters Of Mercy’


Heart And Soul


Joy Division – Closer

circa 1991.

My mate Alan had been playing guitar since his early teens and had become quite accomplished at it. One afternoon over at his place he hooked his imitation Gibson Les Paul up to the stereo. By turning the input volume up but turning the headphone volume down he achieved a really good distorted sound. He handed me the guitar. I hadn’t a clue about chords or notes or anything but when I struck it I sounded just like Jimi Hendrix. Well I thought so anyway.

Brian had borrowed an old acoustic from Alan and had been plucking away for a short while. I asked Al if he could show me a couple of things too. So shitty was the guitar I couldn’t even press the strings hard enough against the fretboard to play a note. I’d been listening to the likes of The Sisters Of Mercy for a while and was really drawn to the bass guitar sound. Unlike most bands who often bury the bass in the mix, they pushed it to the forefront to dramatic effect.

Ferg’s mate Jim was looking to sell his bass. I didn’t know Jim played guitar and certainly never heard of him being in a band or anything. It was covered in splodges of paint and newspaper print where Jim had attempted to give it a cool custom paint job. It was missing two of the four strings (the fat ones), he’d no amplifier either. Unperturbed, I sat on the floor of my bedroom for the next two weeks and tried to figure out what to do with it. I eventually had to give it back to Jim once my parents gave me a firm NO – they’d just been to see Neil Diamond and couldn’t understand what I wanted with a guitar that had less than six strings let alone just two.

Around this time I was over at Evin’s, Jim had loaned him a copy of Joy Division’s Closer album. I was familiar with their hit from a few years previous – Love Will Tear Us Apart. It was played at some of the school social and “No Name” (read “no alcohol”) discos we’d go to. Ev didn’t seem too bothered by it so I borrowed it from him.

"This is the way, step inside"

The first point of entry is its stark, ethereal cover. There is no mention of the band just the album title in all caps above an image of a family in mourning by the body of a loved one. Musically the bass and drums are dominant yet sparse, accompanied by shimmering guitar and an economical but effective use of synthesizers. The singer Ian Curtis’ booming, almost monotone vocals oversee the proceedings.

While the music and lyrical themes are dark, this album is not depressing. Quite the opposite, at times it is very uplifting. Stephen Morris has got to be one of the most underrated drummers in rock – I don’t know how he managed to keep the beat on my favourite track, A Means To An End. Its tempo is slow but not slow enough, every time I listen to it I expect him to fall off his stool. Heart And Soul has got to be the best opening track to a Side Two of any album made. The throbbing bass line made up my mind that I need to pursue the bass guitar after all.

I did. I got a very heavy Vox with all four strings from a guy over in the nearby Ardeevin estate. We put a short lived band together – Lungcut with Richard (guitar), Ev (vocals), and John (drums). One night John’s friend Hatchet, another guy from Ardeevin, dropped by unexpectedly to our rehearsal space. He was an amazing bass player with local band Pincher Martin – I was mortified. We ran through our “set” and sheepishly asked what he thought? He must have been high or something because he said we sounded like Joy Division. He never said we were good, just that we sounded like Joy Division. Good enough for me.



Artist: Joy Division

Album: Closer

Label: Factory

Released: 1980

Recommended Tracks: A Means To An End, Isolation, Decades, Heart And Soul.