Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures (1979)

As one of my top 10 (maybe top 5?) albums ever, it was just a matter of time before I got around to diving into this one.  But after a day of squeaky-clean sunshine pop, the time seemed ripe for a bit of contrast.

'Cuz damn this one's dark -- but there's at heart an energy and spirit to this, once you find it, which seems to elude so many of the goth and industrial bands that claim to draw from the same well.

When I was first turned on to Joy Division in college in the mid-80s, I had a really hard time getting into them, even though all the right people were telling me how great and important they were.  I pretty quickly took to the more poppy and dance-oriented New Order, formed by the band's surviving members after singer Ian Curtis's suicide, but Joy Division?  I kept trying to figure out the appeal of Unknown Pleasures.  I found it gloomy and oppressive:  Curtis had a spooky baritone that hit me as cold and uninviting; the melodies were buried in the bassline; the percussion sounded synthetic, like something from a toy keyboard; and the production was littered with the sound of crashing cars and breaking glass, creepy and disorienting. 

But late one night, when I happened to be in just the right state of mind (I'll leave it at that),  my roommate spun up Unknown Pleasures on the turntable and… it was the proverbial ton of bricks.  The music wasn’t dark, it was portentous, like a great horror movie or sci fi novel; Curtis’s croon had a unique sensitivity to it, haunting and passionate in its own distinctive way; the bass carried the tunes brilliantly, with the guitars and drums and even those crashing cars and smashing glass creating a rich atmosphere that drew you in, the rich lyrical imagery (and that fucking fantastic album cover) creating a world you could fully inhabit.

I (finally) found myself taken in by the hooks of upbeat tracks like the opening "Disorder" and "She's Lost Control" and especially the frenetic call-and-response of "Interzone," a throwback to their earlier punk days before genius producer Martin Hannett smoothed out the rougher edges.  And I learned to soak up the slower, more intense numbers, like the building, moody "New Dawn Fades," and even the dirge-like and gripping closer "I Remember Nothing."  (And once I conquered Unknown Pleasures, I found it much easier to get into the follow-up Closer, released shortly after Curtis's passing, which is nearly as great, particularly the album's superb second half.)

So, anyway, I get that Joy Division is not for everyone, just as they weren't for me, at least not right away.  But given time (and the right state of mind)...

Here's a live "She's Lost Control":
 ... and an amateur video for "Interzone":