Nick Drake & Ian Curtis: The Musketeers of Mope

[veering away from fringe artists for a moment…]

There are some strange intersections between Nick Drake and Ian Curtis. In my mind, they are the  musketeers of mope. The musicians whose decent into depression, madness, and melancholia are fossilized for all to see in their recordings. Their work slowly developed into the desperation, isolation, misery, and arguable insanity that are so commonly associated with their names. Curtis and Drake committed suicide, and their dissatisfaction with life lingers in their music.

Lyrically, Drake and Curtis share similar themes, yet very different motifs. Drake was known for his apt usage of natural symbolism. Two of his albums, Pink Moon and Five Leaves Left employ this symbolism directly in title, and indirectly in lyric. Many of the songs off Pink Moon harbor a certain sense of alienation, which eventually developed into a desperation for normality, as seen in a closing track Things Behind The Sun. The opening line, “Please beware of them that stare” acts as a representation of Drake’s own place in society – an outcast, a loner, frequently alienated and dismissed.

Curtis utilized similar themes within his lyricism, which he didn’t attempt to conceal from the public, unlike Drake. His emotions are so blatantly presented within all of his lyrics that if you place his releases in chronological order, you can easily notice the increasing sense of desperation and solitude present within his output. It is almost as if you’re able to live vicariously through the collapse of a man struggling with depression. This undisguised despondency and misery is achingly expressed within the song Isolation, wherein he describes the tortures and pleasures of solitude. The lines “I’m ashamed of the person I am” and “This is my wonderful prize” further express the varying emotions solitude evoked for Curtis.

Musically, Drake utilizes the most simplistic of melodic mediums – on his final album, Pink Moon, an acoustic guitar and the occasional piano is all you hear in association with his sonorous, raw voice. His lyrics, coupled with the simplicity of both his intonation and his guitar create a truly eerie and despondent sound – almost akin to a plea, or a cry for help as many would later assume.

Though a decade apart in life and death, Nick Drake and Ian Curtis as members of society ceased to exist in very similar ways. The further their music progressed, the greater the distance between actuality and personal reality their lyrics became. It was as though they were viewing the world from an ever increasing distance as their desperation, isolation, and misery increased to an unbearable amount – resulting in the conscious decision to end their sorrow and pain.

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