Therefore I make a decree that ever people, nation and language, which speaks any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.
(Daniel 3:29, King James Version)
Thou shalt not put musicians and recording artists on ridiculous pedestals, no matter how great they are or were…
(Thou Shalt Always Kill, Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip)
And so it came to pass that, as Paul Young had done some forty years earlier, Noel Gallagher decided to sing a song by someone else. That’s it. He sang a song originally written and recorded by another artist. He did not, despite what the reaction to this most trifling of events may have convinced you, commit some terrible crime against humanity.
The song in question was, of course, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, originally recorded by Joy Division. A song, and a band, who have been placed on a ridiculous pedestal. A fine band, an interesting band, an important band, an influential band, but as Scroobius Pip would have it, just a band.
Fire and brimstone has reigned down on Gallagher since his take on this hymn for the grotesquely lonely made its way into the world. People are, to put it lightly, not happy. Like religious fundamentalists, of all stripes, they have decided that “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is a sacred text, that it must not be touched by human hand, nor be sung by any other voice than Ian Curtis. Forever and ever. Amen.
There are dissenting voices of course, people who have bestowed upon Gallagher some sort of Messiah status. But he isn’t the Messiah, he’s just a gobby bloke from Manchester, with a guitar.
For those people “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is an indie “banger”. The sort of thing they bellow on the dance floor at the annual golf club fundraising disco. The same people who roar “We only wanna get drunk” from “A Design for Life” but who couldn’t tell you where the library was.
But it isn’t an indie banger, it is a rare example of when song drifts dangerously close to poetry, when the frippery of pop, even of the indie variety, does that most dangerous of things, and dares to be honest, brutally so.
“Why is the bedroom so cold, turned away on your side” is not the last gasp of a relationship in breakdown, but is instead the rage they feel at their unfortunate wives when they won’t “put out”, or give in to the prospect of 5 minutes of laboured, laborious fucking...when they get back from the pub in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The people who have leapt to the defence of Gallagher’s take on the song are the same people who point and laugh at another version of the song. When Paul Young covered the song on The Tube in 1983 it probably passed without too much comment. But now it is seen as the musical equivalent of tearing up a Bible, of mocking the Quran, and not just a man singing a song he loved.
The truth is that Young’s take on the song has something that Noel’s version does not have... soul. Young is a fabulous singer, and you can hear his connection with the song in every syllable. While the peculiar performance of his backing singers may seem a bit incongruous with the theme of the song, that is no fault of Young. There is a moment when Young’s mic cuts out and he whirls around the stage, clutching the mic stand, and he captures something of the mania of Curtis’s live performances.
Oh you can laugh, but to think that because Young was a pop star that he wouldn’t “get” Ian Curtis is S.T.O.O.P.I.D. Think about Rick Astley’s chanelling of Morrissey when he played a series of gigs with Blossoms where they performed only Smiths songs. Like Young, Astley was a blue eyed soul boy. Like Astley, Young was a superior vocalist to many of the deities of mid-90’s indie rock.
Gallagher’s performance of the song, curiously, lacks any real passion. It is soulless. There is no real connection between Gallagher and the song. It sounds like something you might find on one of those Top of the Pops albums where the hits of the day were covered by session musicians and
singers. It sounds a bit like “Love Will Tear Us Apart”...but not.
Some of the defenders of Noel Gallagher will try to tell you that he is “just like me”, by which they mean a working class man. Quite why the class of a musician should matter is a mystery to me, but if that is why Gallagher gets a pass, if that gives him some magical coat of authenticity, then Young has to be allowed to wear it too. Young is a working class boy done good too, a former factory worker, a long period of struggle to make a name for himself in music...but because he wasn’t a rock ’n’ roll star, he’s out.
You can loathe both covers of course, but what you cannot do is try to defend the obviously less sincere, less interesting, less connected, rendition from the bloke from Oasis, and at the same time try to continue to mock Paul Young for his.
I won’t allow it.