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Friday, February 11, 2011

330. "Transmission" by Joy Division

This may sound in some ways like a mashup, but it isn't. It does employ some elements of the original Joy Division recording, but the lead vocal and the approximation of Barney Rubble's guitar scratchery are all new performances by me. Meanwhile, the pieces of the... other song... that you think you're hearing are actually radically reworked bits of a karaoke rendering of it, making this less of a remix/sound collage than the culmination of my various experiments with karaoke tracks, which have included writing my own new lyrics for a song, singing the lyrics in Esperanto (and I have to admit I'd totally forgotten that one), getting crazy with the kids, singing the lyrics to a completely different and much weirder song, and most pertinently to this track, who could ever forget this thing.

As to that other song, as most people who know me are aware, I've long held "Don't Stop Believin'" to be in a dead heat with POD's "Youth of the Nation" for the title of Most Offensively Bad Song Ever, and this has only become more vexing as it inexplicably rises year by year higher into the stratosphere of Universally Treasured Cultural Artifacts. So I did want to piss on it. The inspiration for the use of "Transmission" came from the recent appearance of this piece of genius, which is somewhat funny, but also really gets me excited about just how damned awesome the song is, probably one of the most stirring pieces of minimalism I can think of, the very essence of what was and is so great about postpunk music and the antithesis of the bloat personified by the Journey song.

Now, I know what you're thinking, and if it's not "What the fuck is this asshole talking about?" it's probably, "Oh, God, the tired reductive myth of punk rock nobly slaying the dinosaur-dragons of commercial arena butt rock", and I'm right there with you and would tend to shoot down any such simplification, but hear me out. The years have had their say, and I could really care less about the larger issues. I might once have done, decades ago, but I've long since become a basically punk rock dude who unironically loves Cheap Trick and Glen Campbell whilst despising Smashing Pumpkins and GG Allin. I couldn't care less about the broader cultural implications of music; I like what I like.

But for the moment, with regards to the artists at hand, I'll play the game with slightly more nuance. Even as a kid, the likes of Journey struck me as pablum. The zeitgeist seems to have started to agree with me, and then slowly and insanely to reverse itself, first ironically and then with greater and greater sincerity, to the point where expressing a dislike for stuff like this is viewed as humorlessness or not having gotten over oneself. A tortured path, sure, but hardly less so than what's happened to Joy Division, who cynically might be viewed as an avatar for depression and suicide fetishists, and if it helps I'll admit that I had my prejudices against them once long ago for that very reason. Factor in the complications provided by the entire career of New Order-- probably a lot of people have "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Blue Monday" on the same '80s classics playlists, and there might be as many kitsch-centric reasons to love New Order as there are goth-poseur excuse for blindly idolizing Ian Curis-- and the rise over the last decade of postpunk revivalists running the gamut from the sublime Bloc Party to the execrable She Wants Revenge, and you've got a tough text to parse. But I really think, and maybe I'm just nuts, that if you cast aside nostalgia and peer pressure and listen to Substance back to back with Journey's Greatest Hits, which appears to be the 24th best-selling album of all time in the US, you'd be hard pressed to come to any conclusion other than the obvious: Journey sucks, and Joy Division is awesome.

And so I jammed them together, and if that reeks of novelty, so be it. If you can't smell the sincerity wafting off of my vocal and guitar here, it's not for lack of trying; I simply fail it. It works for me... it's one of the very few 39-40 efforts I've instantly wanted to listen to again and again, and it actually moves me. Maybe that's narcissistic, but you'd have to hope that out of 330 efforts I'd be able to please myself every once in a while.

As a side note, the cover art for my version is a little off the mark for what I really strive for in terms of these things-- they've evolved to be generally intended to function quite literally as virtual 45 sleeves-- but it just amuses me to think that some day someone might run across this image devoid of context and have to figure out what the hell it's on about. At the same time, it occurs to me that, statistically speaking and given the rarely acknowledged real-world eclectic musical tastes of most people, there are probably a lot of Journey and Joy Division CDs rubbing up against each other in a lot of peoples' alpha-by-artist record collections. Not mine, though.

Personnel: Rex


  1. I am just the kind of eclectic/dilettante/asshole who loves both of these songs unironically to the point of idiot dancing. Admit it, you did this just for me. Go ahead, I'll wait.

  2. I did. It's repayment for letting me borrow your angle on the Dinosaur Jr cover!

  3. This is both brilliantly perverse and perversely brilliant.