Joy Division

Love Will Tear Us Apart

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
Substance 1988 GC / Rhino 3:24
Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the 80's, Vol. 2 1994
Various Artists
Rhino 3:27
Permanent 1995 Qwest / Warner 3:36
Heart and Soul 1998 Rhino / Warner Bros. 3:27
24 Hour Party People 2002
Original Soundtrack
London 90 3:24