Release Year: 1979
When people hear Joy Division they think of two things: Ian Curtis’ tragic death and their debut album. This record is still one of the best debut albums ever released and one of the most groundbreaking in music. I’ve never been a huge Joy Division fan, but it’s hard to say that this album isn’t good. With brooding lyrics and haunting, at times creepy music, the album stands the test of time. What’s more is when you hear this album, you can hear how a lot of other bands who have used this album as an influence. It’s not a perfect record, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.
If you ever read somewhere that this is one of the darkest albums around, it’s pretty much the truth. The band already has this reputation of being dark and depressing mostly due to the death of their lead singer, but it’s the lyrics and the music that play into this as well. You can hear the darkness come in on the track “Day of the Lords.” The unpolished guitar riff sounds brooding and sets the mood for the song. What puts it over the top are lyrics like “I’ve seen nights filled with bloodsport and pain/And the bodies obtained, the bodies obtained.” Of course, I’m not really sure what Curtis is talking about, but with all of these elements put together the song is haunting and unsettling.
This mood continues on the track “She’s Lost Control.” This is probably one of the best songs on the album due to how it’s presented. It begins with one of the simplest guitar riffs and a simple drum beat. Just this alone has this empty sound and feeling. When Curtis comes in, an overwhelming sense of bleakness takes over. There’s this odd, yet creepy effect on the vocals where they’ll continue in a distorted manner after he’s done singing. The lyrics also paint an unsettling picture of a girl who has lost control: “Well I had to phone her friend to state my case/And say she’s lost control again/And she showed up all the errors and mistakes/And said I’ve lost control again/But she expressed herself in many different ways/Until she lost control again.” There’s just something about the song that’s catchy, yet unnerving at the same time. The tracks on the album have such isolation and darkness to them that if you’re not in a somber mood it’ll put you in one.
But surprisingly, there are moments when things pick up the pace. “Interzone” is the most upbeat track on the album, at least in terms of music. Oddly enough, it’s something you can really move to,which is not the first thing you think of when you hear this band. Not only is it upbeat, it’s more energetic and has this garage rock feel to it more than any other song here. But it still has its creepy moments. There’s a singing technique used here where it sounds like there are two different vocalists and they’re both singing different lyrics almost at the same time. It’s like there’s a ghost singing along with the singer. This track is definitely another highlight of the record, especially because it lightens up the heaviness of the album. This is good because some of the songs like “I Remember Nothing” move too slow at times. Songs like these are good, but after a while the slow, heavy feeling of the music gets weary and brings you down.
What’s interesting about Joy Division songs is that they really don’t have hooks or choruses. The closest you’ll get to that is some lyrical repetition. But the element that acts a the hook in these songs is the music itself. The raw, unpolished guitars, the heavy bass lines, and the deep drumming are what kept me listening to the record. Songs like “Shadowplay” and “Wilderness” have music that is so catchy, it’s the best thing about the track. Alongside the guitar are weird sound effects that sound like they come from space from time to time. On “Insight” there’s a part where it sounds like lasers are being shot while the music plays on. It’s unexpected and kind of creepy because it just comes out of nowhere. Some people are attracted to Joy Division’s lyrics, but for me it’s all about the music.
Overall, the album gets 8/10. Though I wouldn’t call it one of my favorite albums, it definitely is an impressive debut and still holds up to this day. It definitely is one of the darkest albums in music and will get you depressed right after the first song. While some of the songs are catchy, the music is what reels you in. At times it sounds empty and creepy, while other times it’s upbeat and something that you can dance to. Either way, this album shows how promising Joy Division was and how they helped changed the 80’s music.