Joy Division - 'I Remember Nothing' (Unknown Pleasures - 1979)
In 2008 I happened to be in Manchester with friends with the 2007 remaster CD (remember them?) of Unknown Pleasures, Joy Division's 1979 debut album - I thought it would be highly appropriate to have it on while we drove through the dark, in the drizzle, on the M60 over and under the concrete flyovers. My friends had other ideas, and somehow, we ended up listening to The Very Best of The Beach Boys as we sped through the evening.
As you move towards the end of Unknown Pleasures, there is no adequate preparation for 'I Remember Nothing'. Unlike the Beach Boys early hits, even at their up-tempo and lively, Joy Division would be accurately described as nihilistic and doomy. So when you come to one of the groups most haunting and bleak songs, it does make the likes of 'Shadowplay' sound like a festival anthem.
Other songs on the album act as a showcase for every band member; songs like opener 'Disorder' are not just a thrilling combination of Peter Hook's rubbery bass, Sumner's wailing guitar, Stephen Morris' metronomic drumming and the ghostly lyrics and vocals from Ian Curtis. They are a sum more significant than the constituent parts.
'I Remember Nothing' is different - The crystal clear smashing of bottles by Rob Gretton (possibly a nod to 'Sentimental Journey' from Pere Ubu's 1977 album The Modern Dance) onwards the songs is only a proclamation by Curtis. It only has one droning chord and is focused on his words and voice.
Curtis supposedly wrote the lyrics about himself and Debby, his wife. Curtis brought a test press home to hear, and she immediately clocked the song about two people passing by each other in their relationship was their own. The protagonist sounds detached and distant from the world - isolated from the outside world by his depression.
There's potentially a nod to infidelity with the line "get weak all the time, may just pass the time" and we know that that's a road that eventually leads to one of the most outstanding singles of all time, 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'.
The critic and cultural commentator Jon Savage called the song;
a definitive Northern Gothic statement: guilt-ridden, romantic, claustrophobic
That makes me all the more determined that one day I should listen to it driving down California State Route 1 reversing the 2008 situation.