Best listened to in the dark, but grand enough to fill the largest of spaces, Joy Division’s Unkown Pleasures is a journey into the darkness.
Leading us into the darkness is the bass of Peter Hook. Unlike traditional rock, Hook plays the instrument more like a lead guitar, giving a deeper, darker feel to the music. Bernard Summer’s guitar is often used as a mood instrument, as on Candidate, lurking eerily in the background. Stephen Morris on drums is excellent, with steady, procession-like beats.
Narrating our journey is Ian Curtis. Singing like a spirit possessed, embodied by his famous live performances, his words are often bleak “Guess your dreams always end. They don’t rise up, just decend. But I don’t care anymore. I’ve lost the will to want more”. Often using repetition well for emphasis “Where will it end?”, his singing build in strength throughout songs.
Like the iconic cover image, the record peaks in its middle. New Dawn Fades is a grand, sweeping stride with a fantastic introduction and magnificent singing from Curtis. Starting a slow whisper, he grows with the song into a powerful roar of “It was me!”. Morris’ drumming is brilliant also, building with Curtis before fading away.
She’s Lost Control, written about ellipeptic seizures, is the other highlight of the record. An almost techno beat and dancey bassline provide the foundation for Curtis’ scary, very personal lyrics. “And she turned around and took me by the hand and said ‘I’ve lost control again’.” Faint echoes add to the feelings of disorientation and losing control. Summer enters after the first verse with a simple but effective pattern that he repeats throughout the song.