Disc by disc

The new Joy Division catalogue
By MATT ASHARE  |  October 24, 2007

Pleasures still unknown: Convention takes Control of Ian Curtis. By Peter Keough.

Chronicle of a death foretold: Joy Division were rooted in grim finality. Now, through a series of new books, CDs, and films, the band has found new life. By James Parker

The ramp-up to Anton Corbijn’s stark film about the troubled life and eventual suicide of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis began back in September, when Rhino released a deluxe-vinyl box set, featuring 180-gram vinyl editions of the band’s two proper studio albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer, as well as the posthumous double album Still. That set was only available through rhino.com at a collector’s price of $199.98. Now, with the film hitting theaters, all three of those albums, along with a Control soundtrack, have hit the shelves with plenty of the expected extras. Here’s a rundown of what the new versions have to offer, as well as a peek at the soundtrack:

ALBUMUnknown Pleasures
ORIGINAL RELEASE July 1979
KEY TRACKS “She’s Lost Control”; “New Dawn Fades”; “Shadowplay”
THE STORY By 1977, the Joy Division line-up was set, with guitarist Bernard Sumner and bassist Peter Hook recruiting fellow–Sex Pistols fan and vocalist Ian Curtis. When drummer Stephen Morris came on board, the group began recording under the name Warsaw (live Warsaw bootlegs abound). But once they commenced their association with Tony Wilson and his Factory label, the name Joy Division was born. Initially thought of as a punk band, Joy Division’s use of mood, texture, and, most important, synths set them apart from the rabble, and the term “post-punk” was born. Yes, the tempos on songs such as the desperate “Day of the Lords” are sub-punk velocity, but the guitars are raw and visceral and the vocals deeply haunting.
BONUS MATERIAL The new Rhino collectors edition includes a second live disc that documents a show at Factory on July 13, 1979, right around the time the band was recording Unknown Pleasures.

ALBUMCloser
ORIGINAL RELEASE August 1980
KEY TRACKS “Heart and Soul”; “Isolation”; “A Means to an End”
THE STORY On the strength of the reaction to Unknown Pleasures and in anticipation of its follow-up, Closer, Joy Division were preparing to make landfall in the US. Closer was completed in March of 1980. Meanwhile, the single “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was slowly making an underground impact. The song eventually hit the UK charts, but not until after Curtis took his own life on May 18, 1980 — just two days before the band was scheduled to fly to the US for the first time. The tribal drums and scraping guitar that kick off Closer’s first track, “Atrocity Exhibition,” reflect the more experimental side of Joy Division, while the electronic beats, shimmering synths, and pulsing melodic bass (a Hook trademark) on tracks like “Isolation” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” which, sadly, is not on the album, hint at what Joy Division would become after Curtis’s death: New Order. It’s become something of macabre pastime trying to decode the lyrics to songs like “Eternal,” looking for clues as to what was going on in Curtis’s mind as he approached suicide.
BONUS MATERIAL The Rhino reissue includes a second disc recorded live at the University of London Union on February 8, 1980. It includes the one track that’s always seemed conspicuously absent from Closer, a raw version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” along with 11 other tracks.

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