Deciphering the Mystery of Joy Division

The approach to Joy Division is forbidding. This band comes sealed in a myth of monumental severity, outside rock and roll to some degree, its achievement arrested at the point of maximum force by the suicide, in 1980, of singer Ian Curtis. Reading the fragmentary testimonies in This Searing Light, The Sun and Everything Else, Jon Savage’s oral history of Joy Division, I was put in mind of “Cold Dark Matter,” the 1991 installation by the British artist Cornelia Parker. With the British...

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