Read my reviews of Joy Division’s two albums. I have not listened to enough New Order to make this a page about both bands, sorry.
1979: Unknown Pleasures (10/10)
The first X times I listened to this record I just didn’t get it. I have never been a particularly downbeat/mopey guy – save for a brief period in my teens when the hormones got to me – and so music that appeals to that side of the human personality is often lost on me, at least emotionally speaking. I remember listening to this record hearing ever so much hype about it and thinking this is the record so many people love? I grudgingly gave it an 8/10 for its “influence” (which I assumed) and moved on.
What changed was twofold: first, I listened to it enough to get over the strange production and, more importantly, I listened to way more British post punk, so much of which (a majority?) is heavily indebted to this band and this record.
It’s kind of hard to put into words how influential Joy Division was on British post punk. Sure, they were not the first post punk band (Magazine? Wire? PiL?) and other bands charted unique courses (those aforementioned bands, The Boys Next Door/The Birthday Party, etc) but so many British bands heard this record and decided they wanted to both make music like this band and, for better of worse, to sound like them.
Some of that can be attributed to the bizarre production. I am on record as not liking Hannett – because he basically has done this his whole career – but after years of reflection I think it’s actually one of the things that makes Joy Division so singular. Yes, the songs play a part. And Curtis himself plays a massive part. But the aura of the record has a lot to do with the idiosyncratic choices to sort of neuter their sound. That was pretty uncharacteristic (and weird, and path-breaking) at the time and it helped show the numerous musicians inspired by punk that they could be inspired by punk without sounding like a punk band. And then suddenly there were tons and tons of bands making music like this (though rarely as good).
This record stands as one of the most influential records of the 1970s because of its absolutely massive influence on the sound of the underground in the 1980s. And influence that cannot be overstated. My #2 record of 1979.
1980 Closer (10/10)
I don’t know what’s happened to me. Usually as you get older, you’re supposed to be less and less able to sympathize with the violent emotions of the teen years and young adulthood.
I can’t say that I liked Joy Division when I first heard them many years ago – a combination of not sympathizing with the lyrics and finding them over-hyped compared to a band like, say, Wire – but I tried to respect them. How things have changed.
This is as classic as any British post punk album can get. It’s more difficult and more ambitious than the debut (who the hell would open with “Atrocity Exhibition”? I mean, seriously…) and, arguably, their sound is more fully formed. Every song here is excellent and manages to combine menace, the philosophical confusion of youth (and punk), danceability, and literacy in a combination perhaps never equaled throughout the post punk movement.
Though far from the first post punk band, this second Joy Division album might be one of the genre’s earliest masterpieces. It certainly contains pretty much everything you’d want from the genre, while remaining distinctly Joy Division-esque, and while being arty as fuck.
A true classic. (Young me was an idiot.) Tied for my #3 album of 1980.