Joy Division's Rhino reissues reviewed by Steve Miller

Music Reviews
Joy Division's Rhino reissues reviewed by Steve Miller
Nov 27, 2007, 06:52

JOY DIVISION Unknown Pleasures 2xCD

Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures (Collector's Edition)


Joy Division - Closer (Collector's Edition)


Joy Division - Still (Collector's Edition)

You read so much about how Ian Curtis was not haunted and his life was a fairly upbeat existence, a concept that adds more drama to his untimely suicide at 23. It's a fraud, though, when you listen to what was in his heart, and appropriately moved his music. It's bad. Real bad. His sadness, his melancholy has moved many to tears, a proper gauge of depth and impact of music, like a gorgeous passage from one of the classical masters.

It's folly to view the band without knowing that the musical world is better for them being part of it, the urgency and lo-fi intensity creeping everywhere and into so much music that sprung from the band's demise.

Forget the Smiths, the Cure or any other limey lightweights who thought they had the market cornered on angst. These guys wrote the book and signed it.

Curtis, a flawed master of course, spent his time in Joy Division dropping bleak intimations that his days were numbered. At the very least, this was a guy who, by the end, the band referred to as “ill.”

 Rhino has created a tremendous document on these three double CD reissues, each done with a different live show on disc 2. These open into a 4-fold, stark and bold as if Factory had done it 28 years ago. Inserts contain essays and interviews that have never been seen before. On Unknown, it's an account of getting the first LP recorded, penned by Jon Savage, who also wrote Curtis' obit in Melody Maker in 1980. On Closer, a 2006 interview with Stephen Morris, Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner, the surviving members of Joy Division.

The photos are a bonus, and we all know that one JD photo is worth a thousand listens. They all fall under the aegis of the 1979 review of the band by NME's Ian Wood who said "Joy Division now sketch withering grey abstractions of industrial malaise.” That is a perfect description of a Joy Division photo. There were shots that should have been taken by masters like Robert Frank or Diane Arbus.

 The JD project is done with an archivist's deft touch, which runs rampant at Rhino. The live material, which includes some fairly poor quality in parts, nonetheless brings home the fact that this was a terrific live presence, sometimes sloppy, but always intense and much rawer than any of the recorded output.

Joy Division were truly the “mass produced secret” that Savage calls them in his essay for the Unknown Pleasures CD.

Better yet, “we were producing our own signals,” Bernard Sumner said in the interview on the Closer notes.

Joy Division were love and hate and gloom and despair at their most eloquent, and while 5,000 copies of that first LP were pressed, word-of-mouth, combined with the rare live shows took it back to repress. It now resides where it belongs, in history. [Rhino]


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