Post-punk pantheon

By PHOENIX STAFF  |  July 16, 2007

They failed, of course, but their collision of pure noise and wall-of-sound dynamics pointed toward My Bloody Valentine, and their retro-bonkers songwriting pointed toward Oasis, as well as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

The depth-charge melodies of “Just Like Honey” seemed miraculous at the time: now they cloy a little bit. Less-remembered tracks such as “Something’s Wrong” and “My Little Underground,” on the other hand, all rueful classicism and hornet’s-nest guitar, have aged beautifully.

Bobby Gillespie — he of the caveman/Phil Spector drums — went on to equal portions of disgrace and ennoblement as lead singer of rave kings Primal Scream, and the Reid brothers matured into a strange traditionalist boredom. For a moment, though, they blazed nastily bright.
— James Parker

VIDEO: Joy Division, "The Eternal"

Joy Division, Closer (Factory, 1980)
It haunted then, and it haunts now. The deep, brooding, almost tuneless voice of a mentally crushed Ian Curtis, echoing up through bleakly minimalist bass and drums in “Heart and Soul,” pulled by the gathering momentum of “Twenty Four Hours,” lost in the cold techno surfaces of “Isolation.” It is the one constant on Closer, the second and final album Joy Division recorded before the singer committed suicide on the eve of the band’s first American tour.

The mythos surrounding Curtis and Joy Division has done much to obscure their actual recordings. (It hasn’t helped that “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” an uncharacteristically polished single released prior to Closer, has taken on a life of its own since Curtis’s death.)

Closer reveals an even darker — and certainly more chaotic — Joy Division than “Love Will Tear Us Apart” suggests. Even the comparatively gentle interludes, such as the softly sung “The Eternal,” with its cascading ambient backdrop, are rife with tension. “Procession moves on, the shouting is over,” Curtis croons, evoking funereal images, “Praise to the glory of loved ones now gone.” That’s right, in case the actual funeral wasn’t depressing enough, Curtis has chosen to dwell on the emptiness that follows.

The sense of claustrophobia is palpable, as the band do all they can to strip away anything warm or human until Curtis sounds like a ghost inside a cruel machine. Given the insular nature of Closer, it really is remarkable how far and wide its influence would be felt. The goth of bands like Bauhaus, the entire Factory rave scene, and much of what would come to be known as “industrial” in the hands of artists like Trent Reznor, can be traced back to Joy Division.

Bassist Peter Hook, guitarist Bernard Sumner, and drummer Stephen Morris would soldier on without Curtis as New Order, further refining their techno tendencies. But they’d never match the brutal majesty of Closer, or equal the haunted poetry of Curtis.
— M.A.

VIDEO: Minutemen, "This Ain't No Picnic"

Minutemen, Double Nickels On The Dime (SST; 1984)
Sammy Hagar dominated radio play in 1984 with his irritating hit single “I Can’t Drive 55.” The song was a macho outlaw anthem about flipping off authority, but the irony of the song itself being an empty, unadventurous musical belch was lost on pop-radio listeners.

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