"I first heard 'Love Will Tear Us Apart’ in a basement nightclub in Detroit in 1985," Peter Crnokrak tells Co.Design. "I was quite young at the time, and it left an indelible impression—due, in no small part, to the romantic decay of ruins that was Detroit in the '80s. The contrast of the stark brooding lyrics and Ian Curtis’s melancholic singing style coupled with uplifting synths and driving guitars, was baffling to me. Even the title is a mystery."
It’s been almost 30 years since that fateful listen, and Crnokrak, now a London-based artist and designer who goes by the "nom du guerre" the Luxury of Protest, is still captivated by Joy Division’s indelible hit—and he’s not the only one. Numerous covers of the now-classic tune have paid tribute over the years, and Crnokrak set out to document them—all 168 known recordings—in a slick circular infographic. "The type is set to create a supernova-like image—a feel of expansion," he says. "I wanted the piece to convey visually how the song sounds to me—like death, but also rebirth in acceptance of loss."
Each version is arranged chronologically in the outermost ring, with a wealth of info embedded in the interior cluster, which Crnokrak explains on his site is a "comparative waveform analysis of the three studio versions (outer ring) recorded by Joy Division and the two posthumous remixes (inner ring) released in 1995." Okay then; tough to parse, perhaps, but fascinating to examine. "It gives you an insight into how the band engineered the sound that they wanted," he says.
This actually represents the second time Crnokrak has diagrammed "Love Will Tear Us Apart," and both represent nice companion pieces to the data viz story behind the band’s iconic Unknown Pleasures album art. Despite his fandom, listening to the covers on repeat was "insanity," Crnokrak says. "Most are a piss-poor reflection of the original. They lack the fragile balance of soaring beauty and grinding reality." There were, however, a few that stood out amongst the subpar performances. "By far the best is by Swans. Coming in a close second is The King—a Belfast postal carrier by day, Elvis impersonator by night."