ARTIST: Joy Division
TITLE: Unknown Pleasures
YEAR RELEASED: 1979
CHART ACTION: #5 UK, #1 UK Indie (on rerelease)
SINGLES: None, “Transmission” was released about this same time.
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Disorder, She’s Lost Control, Shadowplay
LINEUP: Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Iconic debut album from post-punk trailblazer.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is an iconic release in many ways. It’s the debut LP from a band that launched 1,000,000 goth and post punk kids (many of which will say they’ve always been into Joy Division even though they were born 10-20 years after this was released). It established Martin Hannett as a producer that takes risks and pushes the sonic envelope with his artists. And third, the front cover has launched another 1,000,000 Hot Topic T-shirts.
The album itself features a powerful, almost angry, Ian Curtis’ brooding, at times monotone baritone over a band that was sparse and open in their arrangements, which belied a sophistication of approach (especially in Peter Hook’s bass work, check the work in “She’s Lost Control”). Hannett added a lot of effects and interesting recording approaches to add depth to the songs, but the main sound is the three musicians backing Curtis.
At first, this album didn’t break the bank, though that may be to Factory pressing up only 10,000 and selling out of 5,000 within a fortnight. After Curtis’ suicide, it raced up the charts.
While some may find the record too dour and moody, and at times repetitive or monotonous, for the most part it’s brilliant, with tracks such as “She’s Lost Control” (not the more familiar 12” version, but a spare and haunting track), “Disorder” and “Shadowplay” put it among the best post-punk ever had to offer.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: They originally were named Warsaw, and their first release was titles “An Idea for Living”.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with a live show appended.
GRADE A: While a couple of tracks linger on a bit long, there’s an argument that can be made this is the pinnacle post-punk album