It’s getting faster, moving faster now, it’s getting out of hand,
On the tenth floor, down the back stairs, it’s a no man’s land…
If you’re used to hearing these lyrics flying by in the tick-tick-ticking metronome of Ian Curtis’s drone, you may not even recognize it as a cover of the Joy Division song “Disorder” when performed by Alexander Sjodin, the Swedish DJ, vocalist, and indietronica musician who records under the name Sailor & I.
While the original is dark and propulsive, Sailor & I’s version is soft and languid, Bernard Sumner’s whining guitar replaced by delicate piano and lush synthesized chords. The original “Disorder” evoked manic anxiety; this new one invites the listener to lean back and if not relax, at least sit still until the inevitable club remix kicks in.
The best cover songs teach us something new about the original material and bring out an aspect of the songwriting that was hidden before. In this case the spare, elegant approach of Sailor & I peels the frenzy of punk away from “Disorder” and reveals a gorgeous little melody that had been hiding there all along. Imagine David Sylvian + Ryuichi Sakamoto covering the Stooges, or Stateless covering Siouxsie and the Banshees. It’s—wait for it—so crazy it just might work. And in this case it does. Beautifully.