Still was, of course, a posthumous mop-up operation that was one half odds and sods and one half live album. And as such, it was pretty much, both in terms of sound and style, aimed at completists, as opposed to the casual fan.
(Which raises the question of whether or not there are any casual fans of Joy Division, though I guess that the enduring popularity of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” probably means that there are.)
In any event, the clear highlight of the studio outtakes that made up the first disc of Still was “Dead Souls,” featuring a bright crunchy guitar from Bernard Sumner and fine tom work from Stephen Morris, and one of those songs that has a long intro. A very long intro. In fact, Ian Curtis doesn’t even open his mouth until two minutes in, by which time the rest of the guys have cycled through a verse and a chorus instrumentally.
But man, it was worth the wait, as “Dead Souls” has one of my favorite openings of any Joy Division song.
Someone take these dreams away
That point me to another day
A duel of personalities
That stretch all true realities
And the way he sings that opening verse is absolutely chilling: not just nightmares, but nightmares that could be his own past lives reaching out to trouble his current one. I doesn’t really matter who they are, but rather that every single night the voices are there.
That keep calling me
They keep calling me
Keep on calling me
They keep calling me
With Sumner riffing hard between every line of the chorus and Peter Hook making scary-ass ghost voices on his bass, the chorus of “Dead Souls” sounds like complete and utter insanity made manifest. No wonder Curtis took so long to start singing: he was probably thinking “do I even want to confess this?” while the rest of the band was looking at him in the studio.
Where figures from the past stand tall
And mocking voices ring the halls
Imperialistic house of prayer
Conquistadors who took their share
As the song wears on, Curtis gets more and more unhinged, as do Sumner and Hook. And Morris is so rattled that he’s playing his snare on the wrong beat every few measures, as if he’s looking around the studio to see where the voices are coming from. Because clearly now they’re hearing the voices, calling all of them. Calling you. Calling me. They keep calling me. And calling me. They’re now all in the same dream, maybe recording this song is part of the dream, and maybe it’s going to go on forever.
Luckily though, Curtis just thinks “fuck this” and high-tails it out of the studio without another word, and while the rest of the band shakes it off, they finally figure out that the best thing is to just end the song and pretend like that whole fucked up dreamstate thing never even happened.
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