3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Joy Division's Seminal Debut Album,
This review is from: Unknown Pleasures (Audio CD)
I was thinking again about this 1979 debut album from Manchester's finest (OK along with Steven's mob) and wondering about the meaning and/or significance of the title. I'm not sure whether the band had anything specific in mind (maybe an attempt to dispel misplaced assumptions about their name) but certainly this collection of songs might have been viewed as rather impenetrable on first listening (particularly given the superficial immediacy - 1-2-3 go! - of much of the music around at the time). Indeed, in their previous incarnation as Warsaw, the band exhibited a closer link with punk (albeit not quite of the 1-2-3 go! kind) whilst also providing clear pointers to their later more distinctive style. Indeed, this style was to prove a tad revolutionary in musical terms, making them one of the most influential bands (I would argue) of all time (in the same league, in this respect as The Velvets, Bowie and The Smiths) and certainly one of the most exciting (and powerful) live bands I ever saw from this era, along with The Clash.
Funnily enough, though, I do have something of a bugbear with Unknown Pleasures, namely Martin Hannett's production. Now I know it could be argued that the muted, industrial sound (like something from Lynch's Eraserhead) of the album stacked up with the band's monochrome visual appearance and restraint (apart, of course, from Ian Curtis' manic live dancing), however I still would have preferred something slightly crisper (still raw, though) that conveyed more of their stunning live sound. I guess, given Hannett's reputation, the band were also probably wary of getting thumped if they tried to impose their views too far (I've read that Bernard Sumner had a similar feeling about the album's sound).
Despite these reservations, though, what is not in doubt is that this was (is) a collection of brilliantly vibrant, atmospheric and powerful songs, and featuring some of the most poetic lyrics you will ever hear, filled to the brim with Ian Curtis' feelings of personal angst. Of course, the band also featured one of the top rhythm sections of their era in Steve Morris' dextrous drumming and Peter Hook's distinctive, low-slung, pounding bass, all overlaid with Bernard Sumner (née Albrecht's) minimalist guitar. Of the songs, probably the most well-loved (by me also) would include the brilliant (and somewhat uncharacteristic) up-tempo opener Disorder, the sonic powerhouses of Day Of The Lords, New Dawn Fades and Shadowplay, together with (probably the most 'commercial' song here ) She's Lost Control. However, we should also not lose sight of the fact that even the less immediately imposing songs such as the atmospheric Candidate and Wilderness, together with the more overtly punky Interzone, are each perfectly judged gems.
I would certainly set aside any doubts about the overall sound characteristics and proclaim Unknown Pleasures as a 'must have' album.