JOY DIVISION – ” Unknown Pleasures ” Classic Albums

Posted: January 8, 2022 in MUSIC
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Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures

The cover to Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures is both immediately familiar and entirely mysterious — much like the music within. The only album from the band to be released during frontman Ian Curtis’ lifetime, he undeniably drives their debut, whether with an aggressive isolation or a hand reaching out hopefully. But that’s not to say this is a one-man show. The rest of Joy Division do their fair share of heavy lifting, producing cavernous, eerie sets to surround his tortured mental explorations. A touchstone for post-punk, new wave, electronic music, and indie as a whole, Unknown Pleasures feels like listening to the deep breaths and mumbled self-analysis of an astronaut as he drifts out into space.

There’s a reason 1979’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’ is the altar at which so many worship. This is the calling card of the gesamtkunstwerk that is/was Joy Division, those four spindly young dudes studiously engaged in pushing the post-punk envelope further than it had gone before. 

‘Unknown Pleasures’ is known for being gloomy or even depressing. While you can definitely make the case for this, the words that more readily spring to mind are “elegance” or “grandeur”. The rhythms here are propulsive but never excessive; guitars and bass wind tightly around the song structures; the vocals are too dynamic to venture into true melancholy as they do with an Elliott Smith or Grouper. 

You have to remember that Joy Division were forged in punk. Famously, the band’s members were among the crowd at the The Sex Pistols’ Lesser Free Trade Hall gig – Morrissey, Mark E Smith, Factory Records’ head honcho Tony Wilson and Buzzcocks were also there. Joy Division’s scratchy punk energy, best captured on the ‘Ideal For Living’ EP, was tempered by Martin Hannett’s experimental recording and production techniques to create something completely distinctive-sounding for this debut LP. From the indie-disco pump and thrust of opener ‘Disorder’ to the stentorian ‘Day Of The Lords’, the energetic ‘She’s Lost Control’ to the faded elegance of closer ‘I Remember Nothing’ – if ‘Unknown Pleasures’ isn’t iconic, then nothing is.

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