Xiu Xiu is a band I have been meaning to check out for quite awhile. After a Mary Timony induced nap, I was in much better spirits and was greeted by one of the high points of CMJ 2007. They are a guitar/keyboard/drum driven three piece with strange strangled emotive vocals. If there was one band outside of Dean and Britta to safely cover a Joy Division song, it would be Xiu Xiu and just that they did.
There are bands out there that seem to be ready made to be covered with no detriment to either party involved with Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan coming to mind. Then there are those bands that for whatever reason, if covered, you are opening up your self wide for heavy ridicule or at least being booed off the stage. Prince, The Fall, and Joy Division come immediately to mind as cover material you best keep your paws out of.
Thankfully, I have seen very few bands foolish enough to attempt Joy Division covers. I can remember two instances. The first was Nine Inch Nails covering “Dead Souls”, which is a bit rote but decent enough. I had a chance to talk to Trent Reznor after a show and asked him why he decided to cover “Lost Souls”, and he replied, “It was probably the only Joy Division song we thought we wouldn’t screw up.” From his response, clearly Trent was aware that he was dabbling in areas that one shouldn’t go a’ messin’ and smartly treaded lightly. The other example of witnessing a Joy Division cover was seeing Nouvelle Vague doing “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. After blithely butchering the first 2/3rds of the song they had the gall in making the final chorus into an audience participation sing-along replete with mics turned to the appalled audience. I, for one, pulled the collar over my nose and puked into my own shirt. To think of it makes me ill to this day.
Xiu Xiu and Dean and Britta, on the other hand, are one of the very few bands that can successfully pull off, maybe not impossible, but nonetheless very difficult: a decent Joy Division cover. They both did it in the same week at CMJ and oddly, they both covered “Ceremony”. I am quite sure it is coincidence that they both covered the same song, but I wonder why that one?