Joy to the World

Local groups pool their gloom for a tribute to Joy Division and New Order

"I'm glad it went over well," he says. "I was worried about getting tarred and feathered and sent on my way." Having grown up in Washington, D.C., Mentzer says that Joy Division was an enormous influence on that city's revered punk label, Dischord. As big a fan as the other participants, Mentzer wanted to show a less serious side in his tribute. "It's just a band, man," he says with a chuckle. "And what I was trying to say was they have their influences too. Elvis and Jim Morrison certainly had an influence on Ian Curtis."

Mentzer is just one of the performers who is more enamored of Joy Division's purism than New Order's populism. "[New Order] did the pop thing," theorizes Artigas. "But at the same time, they were taking gear to a new level. Ask any electronica guy, and he'll tell you, "If it wasn't for New Order....' And they weren't pretentious. New Order wore jeans and T-shirts, whereas you had Depeche Mode wearing makeup and big poofy hairdos. These guys were doing something real, emotional, and not as hit-driven as everything else was at that time."

In seeking that authentic spirit in both bands' material, the assembled South Florida acts met with mixed success at No Love Lost. Dorian Grey was shaky, jerky, and spasmodic as it slammed through a raw version of "She's Lost Control" and then an ill-chosen New Order tune, "State of the Nation." The group captured all that was amateurish and unprofessional about JD's beginnings, without any of the primitive brilliance.

Details

8 p.m. December 22, 561-832-9999
Respectable Street, 518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach

Some bands altered the compositions slightly to give them a new edge, like the Unseelie Court, which added a skiffle beat to "Dead Souls." Over on the electric/ acoustic stage, Artigas (appearing as Pentium 5) turned in snappy takes on "586" and "Atmosphere." He showed up again with his band Planelifter; its take on JD's "These Days" finally managed to ignite some of the metal menace and danger that surfaced in Joy Division performances. Game 4 played it safe with straightforward attempts of primitive tunes "Leaders of Men" and "Warsaw."

Away from the main stage, the electronica renditions veered uncomfortably close to cheesy, Holiday Inn­ready versions, such as Chroma's computerized takes on "Every Little Counts" and "Age of Consent." Both tunes lost something in the translation, especially by being reduced to instrumentals.

At least one act used the original songs as a springboard into a totally new realm: Swivel Stick went straight to the skronky heart of avant-jazz. With a bass/drums/guitar lineup using Marcus Ware's squealing saxophone to replace Curtis' somnolent voice, the band's versions of "The Eternal" and "Decades" were completely unrecognizable.

"We wanted to do our own tribute to them rather than try to re-create what they were doing," says guitarist Carl Ferrari. He acknowledges that Swivel Stick's instrumental augmentations lose the lyrical impact. "They mean a lot to the person who's writing them," he states, "but to other people they're just part of the whole soundscape."

Whirlaway capably mimicked the crushing malevolence of Joy Division's "24 Hours," then wowed the crowd with the colorful, chiming chords of "Leave Me Alone." One of the show's high points came courtesy Ed Matus and his erstwhile project Waterford Landing, which lost points with a tedious instrumental take of "Isolation," then more than compensated with a fascinating update of New Order's early gem "Procession," marked by Matus' slashing guitar.

The show's closing act, Disconnect, adapted the chattering sequencer stutter of New Order's powerful "Temptation" to allow Juan Montoya's furious guitar riffs to fill in the blanks. Bassist Scott Nixon sang, "Oh, you've got green eyes,/Oh, you've got gray eyes,/Oh, you've got blue eyes," with his own peepers squeezed tightly shut. Gathering tight against the front of the stage, the crowd finally got the fix it was looking for: its own humble surrogate for the power and the majesty of its hesitant heroes.

Those heroes may yet make a triumphant return. Though another Broward County weekly declared otherwise last month, New Order didn't break up in 1994. The band has been on extended hiatus, and all three factions (Sumner's Electronic, Hook's Monaco, and Morris and Gilbert's the Other Two) recently released albums of their own, but New Order resurfaced on The Beach soundtrack last year with a new track, "Brutal." Word from the band's camp is there will be a new New Order album this summer with a tour to follow.

Like the Sex Pistols, who inadvertently gave Joy Division its start, the latter band is an inspiration to anyone with limited musical ability, proving that those constraints may actually be harnessed into great power. "The ability to tune in to what is valid and fresh in rock music is a talent that more technically applied musicians will never learn," Mentzer says. "You can listen to Joy Division or New Order material and just listen to how they just feel what a song should do."

Artigas is simply happy the shows are happening and hopes they provide an education along with entertainment value.

"[Joy Division/New Order] had a huge cult following, but most people still don't know who they are," he says. "Both bands don't have the credit they deserve. People into all this "alternative music' should take a look at where it came from."

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