Joy Division are one of those bands with such a short history but with a legacy and impact that has truly become legendary. Each time I go and listen to this band, I’m always pulled in and find myself becoming more and more intrigued by little nuances and other parts of songs. This captivation has led to countless conversations with others about all sorts of subjects on the band. One of the things I love to discuss with people is the first songs on Unknown Pleasures and Closer and which one is more impactful. To me it has to be “Disorder.” The lyrics of this track are quite introspective and poetic. The music sets a tone for the darkness and yet at moments shines a light in opportune moments throughout.
One of my favorite things to do when I love a band so much is to delve into what influenced them. Throughout the years of my obsession with Nine Inch Nails, I read that Joy Division was a huge influence on Trent Reznor. So years ago I went out and bought all the Joy Division albums and listened to them over and over, realizing why Trent loved them so much. Which now brings me to todays topic, which Joy Division album is better, Unknown Pleasures or Closer.
Unknown Pleasures was released in June of 1979. Interestingly no singles were released from the album. This album is considered one of the most influential albums in the post-punk movement. There are so many great songs on this album from “Day Of The Lords,” “New Dawn Fades,” Shadowplay,” and “She’s Lost Control.” There is something beautiful and haunting about this album. The desperation of Ian Curtis’s voice, is so dyer and urgent that it makes the music even more driving. I can’t forget about the cover art, which is such a seminal part of music history. It’s kind of sad that hipsters have hijacked the cover and made put it on all their urban outfitters clothing.
Closer was released in July 1980. This album took a darker approach and instilled a more gothic feel to it. This was a giant step in the creativity and songwriting of Joy Division. there are lots of critics out there that claim Closer to be the bands masterpiece. Ian Curtis had committed suicide two months prior to the release of Closer. The songs on this album really delved deeper into Ian’s problems with depression and seizures. “Atrocity Exhibition,” “Passover,” Twenty Four Hours,” “Heart and Soul,” really show the progress the band had made since their debut.
It’s really hard for me to pick a favorite, but If I had to I’d go with Unknown Pleasures. There is something about that album that really strikes a chord with me. There is a wonderful influence of The Velvet Underground and The Doors that rings throughout the album. I also love the production of it. Closer is more in line with what New Order would go on to do. I enjoy New Order, but I love Joy Division.
Today marks the 35th anniversary of Ian Curtis of Joy Division’s passing. During his very brief career, he left a lasting effect on the music landscape and influenced countless bands and artists over the years. So in tribute to Ian, here are my favorite covers of Joy Division songs and the albums themselves.
Nine Inch Nails- Dead Souls:
Bush- In A Lonely Place:
The Killers- Shadowplay: This also the best thing this band has ever and will ever do.
Joy Division has been one of the most underrated bands since their existence. Many bands have tried to duplicate their sound. They are also one of the hardest bands to cover. This version of Day Of The Lords by Neurosis (releases in 1990) takes the darkness and despair to a whole new level.
It’s amazing to hear lyrics so haunting embody someone else. The words of Ian Curtis, really strike at the heart with many people especially Trent Reznor. You can tell why Joy Division is such an influence on Nine Inch Nails.