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CONTROL chronicles Joy Division's rise and Ian Curtis' fall

Control Ian Curtis Joy Division

That Joy Division was able to lay a groundwork for experimental rock music that still resonates today is no surprise. Though it is no small feat. And much of it had to do with frontman Ian Curtis, who had the talent, discipline and mortal anxiety to convey a sentiment in his music that has influenced artists as diverse as Talking Heads, Sleater-Kinney, Sonic Youth, U2, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Danny Brown. Anton Corbijn’s film CONTROL, which airs tonight at 8P, sheds light on the brief and dark life of Ian Curtis, who left the world his legacy at the spry age of 23.

Most truly inspiring people don’t wake up with the intention of changing the world through their art. Sure there are people who claim to want to do this — like, a lot of people. But few really allow for their lives to be consumed, which is often necessary for this to happen. This helps explain the surge of energy that propelled Curtis in the name of art, rebellion and vanity. His rejection of mainstream conventions helped to create an alternative sound so diverse it fell under the umbrella of post-punk, the genre’s name itself being too smart for its own good, like the players involved. Corbijn was one of the privileged few around at the time, photographing the movement.

Curtis was a poet, a messenger of the disenfranchised and a punk with a family, as incongruous as that might sound. Struggling with epilepsy that was only deteriorating undoubtedly added to his verve; some concertgoers assumed his fits were part of his stage presence. The knowledge that time is short probably helped to fuel the honesty with which he wrote and performed.

His suicide was as much of a shock to his bandmates (now known as New Order) as to music fans the world over, but no one would have been able to forecast the influence he had on future artists and fans alike. I mean there’s a bloody wall in Australia that has had “Ian Curtis RIP” painted on it since his death in 1980 — and continues to be repainted if it’s ever covered over. It’s 2012. Just saying.

Tune in to CONTORL tonight at 8P on on Sundance Channel. And for more on Ian Curtis and the band, check out JOY DIVISION, airing later this month.

Photo credit: Momentum Pictures