Review #211: Unknown Pleasures, Joy Division

Karla Clifton
3 min readDec 13, 2021

#211: Unknown Pleasures, Joy Division

Hey, look, it’s the t-shirt album!

Anyway, today in “Things I Don’t Know That Could Fill Several Books,” we have Joy Division’s lead singer, Ian Curtis. Curtis was famous for his deep voice, his emo poetry, and his tendency to dance like he was having an epileptic seizure — of which he had many. Curtis ended up committing suicide at age 23, just after Joy Division’s second album Closer (#309) was released.

I hate hearing about stuff like that. He didn’t even make it to the 27 Club. Not that that would have been better.

I suppose that explains the t-shirt thing. Think about how there are hundreds of Kurt Cobain t-shirt designs: there’s a certain kind of punk fan that idealizes tragedy. I guess the difference is that Kurt Cobain looked like he could have been a movie star, so his face gets to be everywhere. Meanwhile, Ian Curtis is immortalized in the cover art from his debut album.

The remaining members of Joy Division ended up forming New Order, developing their own sound and a rabid following. In fact, their sophomore album, Power, Corruption & Lies, sits at #262.

One last fast fact: Joy Division’s original name was Warsaw, after the David Bowie song “Warszawa” from his album Low (#206).

FAVORITE SONGS:

“Disorder” — If you know one Joy Division song, it’s either this one or “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (which was actually a non-album single released after Curtis’ death). As an opener, this is far and away the most fun song on this album. But it also sounds like the natural starting point: it kind of descends into darkness from here on out.

“Day of the Lords” — Goth can be punk, too! In your face, Morrissey!

“Insight” — Several of these tunes start with several seconds of silence. Eery basslines.

“New Dawn Fades” — The guitars on this, for me, are what make it different from other goth guitar bands, like The Cure. So angry and cool.

“She’s Lost Control” — This one scared me. It’s about a run-in that Curtis had with a fellow epileptic seizure sufferer.

“Shadowplay” — Ooh, a harmony!

“Wilderness” — Love this sliding guitar solo.

“Interzone” — Hey, this is bassist Peter Hook singing lead here! The title is a reference to William Burroughs’ novel Naked Lunch. Yeah, that tracks.

“I Remember Nothing” — Between the ambient noise, the breaking glass, and these depressing lyrics, this might be my favorite song on the album. We were strangers/For way too long.

LEAST FAVORITE SONGS:

“Candidate” — Curtis sounds off-key here to me. Am I crazy?

IS RS FULL OF IT?

I loved this album. They sound like if the Smiths had any edge at all. In fact, I’m going to submit that Unknown Pleasures should trade places with #113, The Queen Is Dead, just because I hate the Smiths. Sue me.

Review #210: The Birth of Soul, Ray Charles

Review #212: Wild is the Wind, Nina Simone

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