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The duochrome Peter Saville cover of this first Joy Division album speaks volumes. Its white on black lines reflect a pulse of power, a surge of bass, and raw angst. If the cover doesn't draw you in, the music will.
Following the first kick of drums and bass come the vocals!'I've been waiting for a guy to come and take me by the hand'. This young band was the 'guy' to take post punk music by the hand and lead it to 80s electronica. Joy Division were unlike anything that came before them and anything that has ever come after them.
The album is at times aggressive: 'And All God's angels beware. And all you judges beware, sons of chance take good care. For all the people out there, I'm not afraid anymore' Ian Curtis intones on 'Insight' lapsing, at times, into despondency. Unknown Pleasures is always brooding and always intense.
Joy Division were 4 boys from 1970s Salford. They took their name from the literary prostitution wing of a Nazi concentration camp and they took their inspiration from the familiar atmosphere of rundown post-industrial estates. Deep heaving baritones come out of a man so small he'd be blown away by the gust of his own voice. Together Curtis, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris created something approaching pure energy. On 'Shadowplay' the guitars launch into a dimension reminiscent of the sonic dimensions that Bowie and Eno dwelt in, in the late 70s. The band's sound is echo-y, cavernous, but thanks to Factory Records producer, Martin Hannett, never empty. By adding sound effects such as breaking glass, deep breaths, and footsteps he brings the music out of the mental torture of the lead singer and into the real world. It's these details that keep you with it and make it feel more measured than their manic live performances. For this he was initially resented by the band.
The classic, 'She's Lost Control' builds intensity as threatening growling is replaced with manic crescendo. It's simple, it's terse. 'Day Of The Lords' feels like it should accompany an Edgar Allen Poe tale as pulsing drums and howling guitars penetrate the air towards an unknown conclusion.
Unknown Pleasure borders on nihilism, but is pregnant with expectation. And like Bowie's Low - once heard its never forgotten. It's like going to the doctor and having your ears syringed. This is a sound that's ready to explode. And it still feels personal. --Susie Goldring
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Top Customer Reviews
Like many fantastic albums, this is not 'immediate', nor is it particularly accessible or masses friendly, nor should it be. Most life-affirming albums grow on people. I estimate that most people will have to listen to this album roughly five times before they start to appreciate all of it's many details, subtleties and nuances, lovingly arranged like some aural landscape.
It's starts off with 'Disorder', in which Ian Curtis declares that he has been waiting for a guide to come and take him by the hand, setting the lost and helpless tone of the entire album. Disorder is a fast and emotionally charged song, climaxing beautifully with Ian Curtis hollering "I've got the spirit, don't lose the feeling", thus encapsulating the fears and attitudes of so many other intelligent young songwriters, bubbling with emotion.
'Day Of The Lords' is an almost perfect example of foreboding and fear, perfectly encapsulated in both it's lyrics and musical sound. It is rife with atmosphere, vibrant and alive, yet painfully unhappy. The desperation with which Curtis demandingly shouts: "Where will it end?" is almost tangible. This is probably the most powerful song on the album.
'Candidate' continues on in similarly bleak fashion, nonchalantly describing the "blood on your fingers", whilst the hazy, threatening music compliments the lyrics perfectly. It is difficult to describe exactly how effectively Joy Division have used sound to create atmosphere on this album, and it is probably even more difficult to achieve.Read more ›
Accepting some basic facts about the album makes "Unknown Pleasures" great before the vinyl is placed on the turntable. It was released on 14 June 1979, through Factory Records and produced by the troubled "hippie" genius of Martin Hannett. Factory boss Tony Wilson, the posh situationist, invested the whole of his savings account into the first run of 10,000 and championed the band like an intellectual football supporter. He was later affectionately played for laughs by Steve Coogan in "24 Hour Party People", yet no one can detract from Wilson's achievement at Factory. Then there is the startling pulsed image of the Peter Saville still selling today as famous emblem on T shirts bought by many who may not be aware of the source. Finally let's not forget those haunting black and white photo's from the era by Dutch photographer Anton Corbjin who later made his big film debut with "Control" the biopic of the band.Read more ›
But actually I really was very wrong! Listening to Unknown Pleasures isn't a depressing or oppressive experience (despite what other people might say.) Intense and dark, yes, and I'd admit to Ian Curtis' lyrics being on the dreary side, but Joy Division knew how to write songs, and the sheer melody of tracks like She's Lost Control and Disorder are positively up-lifting.
Also, Unknown Pleasure is one of the most spacious sounding albums I've heard. Apparently Martin Hannett recorded each instrument separately (including each drum of the drum kit) giving the album its clean-cut and pure sound. It means even when Joy Division 'rock out' (as on Interzone) the guitar sounds clipped and self-contained, brimming with barely repressed energy. It also gives the album quite an electronic feel, an effect enhanced by the many studio tweaks (the echo-effect on Ian Curtis voice on She's Lost Control, the wooshes and laser sounds on Insight, for example.)
The sparse sound also sets the stage for Ian Curtis' characteristically haunted vocals, the only element allowed to be expansive and emotional. It cannot be over-stated just how beautiful and harrowing Ian Curtis voice is. He sings with a passion and intensity that leaves you feeling suddenly slightly under-whelmed by Editors and their ilk.
Like other great post punk albums of the era (eg Fear of Music, Entertainment!Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
There's not much to say about this album that hasn't been said already, I mean, it's just one of those albums that everyone has heard of, everyone knows the band and everyone knows... Read morePublished 26 days ago by Jack
If you're in the know I can't really say anything that hasn't already been said a work of geniusPublished 2 months ago by ahumanonearth.
Arrived on time and in good condition.
Good sounds Nostalgic tracks still sound good.
A collection of songs which gave an insight into the workings of I an Curtis's mind. But we should not discount the other band members either, because I thought Joy Division were a... Read morePublished 3 months ago by John Williams