In Three Songs: Joy Division
What is left to be said about Joy Division? Well, nothing, really; the myths and legends surrounding the Mancunian overlords of post-punk have taken care of all the details concerning the band’s brief, burning and black existence. Lead singer Ian Curtis is now a rock’n’roll martyr and, after 30 years, Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook have decided once and for all that they hate each other. Oh, and Stephen Morris still hasn’t aged. As a devotee to the band and the mystique that inevitably accompanies them, picking just three songs is a task rife with danger, so let’s set up some ground rules: Love Will Tear Us Apart will not be mentioned in the rest of this article. You’ve all heard it, those who love it, congrats, those who hate it have no taste and can listen to the Twang as punishment for their ignorance. Next rule is that a Joy Division fan like myself has an uphill task when recommending them. We will hear lazy criticisms punctuated by that dirty condemnation: depressing, if you’re afraid of dark music then grow up or get a nightlight. Rant over: without further teenage bile, it is my privilege to recommended one of the most important rock bands ever.
Track One: Disorder
What better place to start than the beginning? This storming opener from the band’s debut Unknown Pleasures introduces everything that makes the band so iconic. Starting off with Morris drums, given that synthetic edge by maniacal producer Martin Hannett, in comes Hooky’s bass and you can hear the song growing. Just when you think you have a sinister Magazine-like beast on your hands Sumner’s subtle and effective riff steadies the song for Curtis to implore for “A guide to take me by the hand”.
Track Two: Transmission
Now, Transmission is perhaps one of the bands most popular songs and for good reason. This is the song that is perfect for new recruits as it has all of the bands best elements. The same could be said for every song in the bands catalogue as they all exist as three separate parts (members, instruments, and attitude) that make a whole but none is more impressive than Transmission. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know what the hell he’s talking about, what matters is the passion and urgency that flows through Curtis’ performance.
Track Three: Passover
Now this is when it gets serious. There is no escaping it: Closer, the bands second and final album, has a towering reputation of greatness and tragedy. Many will be uncomfortable listening to what many believe to be musical cries for help. Best thing to do is put all of that out of your mind and immerse yourself in the music. One of the bands key strengths is that their songs have ample breathing space. None more so than Passover. The best way to describe Passover is as the musical equivalent of an old timey Bond theme soundtracking Dante’s Inferno. The real star of the song isn’t Curtis, but Bernard Sumner. His mix of conservative playing that always threatens to explode and his control when it eventually does cement his place as one of the greatest, and most un-showy guitarists of the era.
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By Kevin Boyle