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Joy Division

85 Ratings: 2.6
A band

Joy Division were an English rock band formed in 1976 in Salford, Greater Manchester. Originally named Warsaw, the band primarily consisted of Ian Curtis … see full wiki

1 review about Joy Division

Serrated echoes from four inverted souls

  • Aug 4, 2010

I was staying near Manchester the summer of '79; I opened a music paper to find Jon Savage's stunning review of "Unknown Pleasures," the debut by what was then still a local band. I'd just turned 18, perfect for the punk era already fading into darker soundscapes that Joy Division created. From the cover into the songs, this first LP summed up the aesthetic that in turn would warp progressive and glam and metal traces into goth and industrial and, well, more post-punk that endures thirty years on.

Not an album for the fainthearted; Martin Hannett's inverted production (see the essay by Michael Bibby in the anthology edited by him and Lauren Goodlad as "Goth: Undead Subculture" or Simon Reynolds' "Rip it Up" history of post-punk for the recording techniques; I've reviewed "Goth") pushed the thuds of Peter Hook, who played bass like a lead instrument, and the steady beat of Stephen Morris, thundering over the diminished voice of Ian Curtis and the guitar fills of Bernard Sumner. This dislocated echo dramatized the effect of an alienated, despairing environment. As Factory Records' mastermind (see "24 Hour Party People" with Steve Coogan in the role) Tony Wilson notes in the liner notes to a so-so tribute album, "Means to an End" 15 years ago: punk lasted a couple of years with "F[---] you" as its message. Then, it ran out of energy. It led to Joy Division's "We're F---ed" as the only possible, and more sustainable, response. For me, this music at its best dates far less than much of punk that spawned it.

"Closer" followed the media hype and personal struggles (see the fine biopic "Control" by noted photographer of this milieu, Anton Corbijn) of Curtis and bandmates. For me it suffers by a lusher, keyboard reliance and weaker, less serrated arrangements, but it and the single hit that followed "Love Will Tear Us Apart" seemed to bring success for the group just before a Spring 80 tour (for which I was waiting back home) of America was cancelled after Curtis hung himself. The trio regrouped as New Order.

I recommend the 4-disc warts and all "Heart & Soul" package for those ready to take on the band. Live tracks, radio sessions and demos for me often work better than the studio tracks, much as I admire Hannett's mixing and miking skills. I prefer as with contemporaries The Cure, PiL, and Siouxsie and the Banshees their earlier, rawer tunes to the more assured, streamlined ones that followed as post-punk turned less aggressive and more danceable, but that may reflect my own state of mind. For, I came of age with these bands in the late 70s, members playing who were barely four or five years older than me. That made all the difference-- they seemed more than cartoonish punks so soon stereotyped to express the pain of growing up in a post-hippie, dispirited, constrained society after so much hype failed again.
Serrated echoes from four inverted souls Serrated echoes from four inverted souls Serrated echoes from four inverted souls Serrated echoes from four inverted souls

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August 03, 2011
I like the music history part.
August 18, 2010
Another fan of JD and later NO. Thanks for the insightful review and bit of music history.
August 10, 2010
I love Joy Division. In fact, lately I seem to be on a musical diet of The Smiths, The Cure, Joy Division, and Tears for Fears. Great review and I really appreciate that you included a bit of contemporary music history. Well done!
August 04, 2010
That surprised me too: 165 ratings? I gave JD four stars as "Closer"'s weaker, but they never had a real chance given their short span to fulfill their promise. Thom Yorke has great taste; indeed Radiohead continues JD's jittery, eerie, unsettlling legacy.
August 04, 2010
Average rating 3.3? alot of people are choosing the wrong number which is anything other than 5!!! JD is the embodiment of raw post-punk and its flag-bearer for sure in our time. I "discovered" them in an interview of thom yorke who cited them as an influence in about 1998 and have been hooked (pardon the Pun!) ever since!
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