Everyone from U2 to Nirvana have some aspect of their music rooted in Unknown Pleasures
, one of the most influential albums of all time.
Rock's moans of despair in the 1990's were first heard here, yet on this album Curtis' gloom is tempered and at times undercut by the exhilaration of his bandmates, who are clearly thrilled to be in the studio, for the first time able to work out all sorts of interesting ideas. The tension makes for a highly immediate and compelling listen.
Bernard Sumner's simple jagged guitar lines are more upfront than they'd ever be again, but even at this juncture his guitar serves mostly as a decorative blur - the heart of the band lies with Peter Hook's subliminal bass and Steve Morris' robotic drums, both of which act as lead instruments. Drawing from the darker dirge-like side of Heavy Metal - "Interzone" sounds like Black Sabbath at 78rpm - as well as the electronic coldly European sounds of Eno-era Bowie, Joy Division create a startlingly original and highly unsettling post-punk sound.
It begins brightly enough with the textbook hooks and forward momentum of "Disorder", with its lights are flashing, cars are crashing
, the actuals sounds of which appear later in "Shadowplay". Very quickly though it moves into dark uncharted territory, as Curtis shares a drink and walks outside, looking for a friend of his at the city centre, or at least one honest man, only to find "Wilderness". He falls to his knees, begging to know where will it end?
. Then he witnesses a loved one break down in the absolute classic "She's Lost Control". At 22, he remembers when he was young, his voice already echoing from beyond the grave.
Such obsessiveness might sound melodramatic and overwrought in other hands, but Curtis' makes the listener truly feel as if he has taken one step into the void and is falling, dragging you with him. Producer Martin Hannett gives the music a coldly efficient sheen to add to this icily Teutonic masterpiece. Nothing else the band did ever came close to this peak, Unknown Pleasures
is how modern rock got to where it is. Rated:
by Reviewer: Creative Noise
(blogging at Creative Noise