One of the best—and worst—aspects of Catcher in the Rye is that so many people feel they can relate to Holden Caulfield. J.D. Salinger created a character who found himself at odds with the values of the world—problems so germane to everyday life that empathy seems the natural reaction. Because people gravitate toward reflections of their own distress, this empathy somehow lightens our burden, but to reduce someone’s troubles to a known quantity and equate them to our own also cheapens them, doesn’t it?
Decades after Ian Curtis’ suicide, he’s frequently discussed as barely more than a caricature of depression and death. He has made a transformation from a real person to a Caulfield-esque everyman. Curtis’ work with Joy Division is the catharsis that lets his pain become our pain, and we relate. Or we think we can. It’s unfair, both to him and his music. Many, including myself, have written about Curtis’ songs in the context of his own tribulations as a tool to leverage some kind of insight. For once, I had hoped to write about Joy Division from a different place, but I can’t. To do so feels negligent.
I will say this: Unknown Pleasures was the second CD I owned, having been improbably drawn in by only the band name and cover. I feel fortunate to have experienced the urgency, foreboding, and perfection of this album—from the distance of Martin Hannett’s production, to the driving smack of Stephen Morris’ snares, to the grim pulse of Peter Hook’s bass, to Bernard Sumner’s brittle guitar—having never seen the name “Ian Curtis” outside of the liners. All I knew was that his alienation seemed impossibly close and more earnest than any music I had ever heard. And, yeah, I—like so many others—felt I could relate. –Eric Carr / Pitchfork.com