The band that launched post-punk and Goth, the music of Manchester, England’s Joy Division lives nearly 30 years since the suicide of its magnetic frontman Ian Curtis. Even after all these years the band still casts an influential shadow. Joy Division’s distinct sound is marked by both the raw and measured playing of the members: Peter Hook’s driving bass lines; Bernard Sumner’s angular electric guitar; and Stephen Morris’ pummeling drums and fills. But it was Ian Curtis’ foreboding and doomy vocals that defined this band’s dark vision and sound forever.
On the first two and brilliant studio albums, Joy Divison’s music was a combination of punk and dance music such as “She’s Lost Control” (from 1979’s Unknown Pleasures) and “Isolation” (from 1980’s Closer). The majority of the songs from both albums draw from the band’s exploring the depths of despair like on “Atrocity Exhibition,” the punkish “Disorder,” and the chilling finale from Closer, “Decades.”
Sadly just as the band was to go on their first American tour, Curtis hanged himself on May 18, 1980, and the rest of the members became New Order. Released after the Joy Division’s demise, Still was a collection of previously unreleased material, from aggressive punk (“Glass,” “Ice Age”), to almost dance and pop-oriented fare (“Ceremony,” later rerecorded by New Order; “Means to An End”). Another noteworthy track is Dead Souls.
Each of the reissues of Unknown Pleasures, Closer and Still contain a bonus disc of live performances. The sound is unpolished but that adds to the electricity of what it’s like to be there to hear that abrasive Joy Division sound; live, Curtis was also giving his all with such raw intensity.