Joy Division

Love Will Tear Us Apart

Composed by Joy Division

Song Review by

A chilling tale of love set adrift with an equally cool, precise accompaniment, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" was the last single recorded by Joy Division, mere months before doomed frontman Ian Curtis committed suicide in May 1980. It's presumed -- perhaps rather hastily -- that the lyrics are autobiographical, an insight into Curtis' fragmenting marriage and his growing relationship with a Belgian girl who followed the band. Whatever the nature of the material, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" functions as an insight into what made Joy Division the most unique band during the era of punk aggression and extremism. Undoubtedly the closest they ever came to a pop song (and subsequently their biggest hit), the single highlights Curtis' fragile ego ("You cry out in your sleep, all my failings expose") and reliance on an often dangerous fatalism ("And we're changing our ways, taking different roads/Then love, love will tear us apart again"). The backing is at mid-tempo pace, propelled by Stephen Morris' mechanistic drumming, Peter Hook's trademarked plaintive bass line, and a wave of haunting synthesizers that echo Curtis' every word on the choruses. The single, first released on 7" on April 18, 1980 (exactly one month before Curtis' death), hit the charts later that summer after its release on 12" -- even though, according to prior agreement within the band, Joy Division ceased to exist the day Curtis died. "Love Will Tear Us Apart" eventually reached the Top 20 on Britain's singles charts (and re-entered 15 years later when London/Polygram acquired the catalog and reissued the single ). Though it's often dangerous to look for any real-world confirmation in a songwriter's words, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" reflects both the tragedy of Ian Curtis' demise and the spark that made Joy Division the first, best post-punk band.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1980 Cleopatra / Goldenlane
No Image 1980 Factory
Still 1981 Rhino 3:14
No Image 1982 Factory
Concert 18 Jan Effenaar 1984 Jd Records
No Image 1987 Strange Fruit
Substance 1988 GC / Rhino 3:24
The Peel Sessions 1990 Strange Fruit 3:25
Palatine: The Factory Story/1979-1990 1991
Various Artists
Factory
Never Mind the Main Stream: The Best of MTV's 120 Minutes, Vol. 2 1991
Various Artists
Rhino 3:24
25 Years of Radio 1993
Various Artists
Dutch East 3:25
Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the 80's, Vol. 2 1994
Various Artists
Rhino 3:27
Permanent 1995 London Films
Trendance [XYZ] 1995
Various Artists
ZYX Music 3:43
Totally Wired [Razor & Tie] 1995
Various Artists
Razor & Tie 3:25
Sounds of the Eighties: The Rolling Stone Collection, 1980-1981 1995
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:27
Untitled, Vol. 2 1996
Various Artists
Global 3:21
Lost Property 1996
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:11
Once in a Lifetime 1997
Various Artists
Telstar
Eighties Mix [Import] 1998
Various Artists
Import 2:53
Relax: Ultimate 80's Mix 1998
Various Artists
Polygram 3:12
Heart and Soul 1998 Rhino / Rhino/Warner Bros. 3:22
Rage the Album 1999
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:26
Guitar Club Classics 2000
Various Artists
SPV 3:12
The Complete BBC Recordings 2000 True North Records 3:25
No Image 2000
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
Les Bains Douches 18 December 1979 2001 Dynamic 3:17
Atomic 80's: The Definitive Eighties Album 2001
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 3:22
24 Hour Party People 2002
Original Soundtrack
London 90 3:24
New Wave Greats 2002
Various Artists
Repertoire
Ultimate Teen Flick Soundtrack 2002
Various Artists
Warner Strategic Marketing 3:23
No Thanks! The '70s Punk Rebellion 2003
Various Artists
Rhino 3:25
Refractured Box One 2003 Factory
Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the '80s Underground 2004
Various Artists
Rhino 3:27
John Peel: A Tribute 2005
Various Artists
WEA International 3:10
Let the Movie Begin 2006 Interstate 2:51
Love Sucks 2006
Various Artists
Rhino / Rhino/Warner Bros. 3:25
Bairro Alto: Noites Loucas Anos 80 2006
Various Artists
SL Entertainment
Songs for the Broken Hearted [Sony BMG] 2006
Various Artists
Sony BMG
Wristcutters: A Love Story 2007
Original Soundtrack
Lakeshore Records 3:22
No Image 2007
Various Artists
WEA/Bose 3:23
The Best of Joy Division 2008 Rhino / Warner Bros. 3:27
Factory Records: Communications 1978-1992 2008
Various Artists
Rhino 3:26
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Rhino
Smash Hits 1980 2009
Various Artists
Rhino
Vox Pops Presents 1980s 2009
Various Artists
WEA International 3:25
Super Hits of the '80s into the '90s 2009
Various Artists
Cleopatra 3:16
Anthems: Electronic '80s 2009
Various Artists
Ministry of Sound 3:21
Hottest 100 of All Time 2009
Various Artists
Triple J 3:23
Going Underground 2011
Various Artists
Universal Music TV 3:25
+- (Singles 1978-80) 2011 Rhino / Warner Bros. 3:25
The Dark Box: The Ultimate Goth, Wave & Industrial Collection 1980-2011 2011
Various Artists
Cleopatra 3:15
Made in Britain 2012
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:10
'80s: The Collection 2012
Various Artists
Rhino / Warner Music / WSM 3:27
Electric 80's [Rhino] 2014
Various Artists
Rhino 3:22
The 80s, Pt. 2 2014
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:24
80s Mix 2014
Various Artists
Ministry of Sound 3:22
'80s Love: The Collection 2015
Various Artists
Rhino 3:23
No Image 2015
Various Artists
Rhino 3:23
Triple J: 40 Years of Music 2015
Various Artists
ABC 3:23
Ostatnia Rodzina 2016
Original Soundtrack
Universal
13 Reasons Why [A Netflix Original Series Soundtrack] 2017
Original TV Soundtrack
Interscope 3:26
'80s [Cleopatra]
Various Artists
Cleopatra 3:18
80 Hits of the '80s
Various Artists
Rhino 3:26
80's Top 40 Hits
Various Artists
Warner Music 3:27
80's [Cleopatra]
Various Artists
Cleopatra 3:18
Best of British
Various Artists
Rhino
Car-aoke: The Collection
Various Artists
Rhino / Warner Music 3:27
Classic '80s [Rhino]
Various Artists
Rhino
Classic 80's [Rhino]
Various Artists
Rhino 3:25
Classic Pop: Synthpop
Various Artists
Rhino 3:27
No Image
Various Artists
Rhino 3:26
Indie Anthems: The Collection
Various Artists
Rhino 3:55
Pop Decades: '80s
Various Artists
Rhino 3:27
Pride
Various Artists
Universal Music TV
Simply Eighties
Various Artists
Simply
Take Me On: 80s, The Collection
Various Artists
Rhino 3:23
The Best Ever Rock
Various Artists
Rhino
No Image
Various Artists
Rhino 3:27
blue highlight denotes editor's pick