One of the greatest cliches anyone could ever come out with in talking about rock music is to call Joy Division a 'depressing' band. I remember people used to say it back in the 80s, and I'm surprised people aren't sick of that adjective yet. To me what is truly depressing is the junk food music which constitutes the vast majority of the Top 40 charts these days. There you will see record companies trying to flog terrible music with lots of boobs, muscles, tight-fitting outfits, sports-cars and anything else they can think of to make kiddies want to buy it. They sure aren't going to do it on the strength of the music alone. Popular music becomes a cynical exercise in marketing, rather than something to inspire you or make you think or feel something new.
Now I understand that the subject matter is dark here, but it is inaccurate to say that it is just maudlin self-pity. If you listen closely to Closer, you will soon realize that Curtis' lyrics aren't just about his own pain. The horror show of history is put on display on the album-opener Atrocity Exhibition and the angry, abrasive Colony. Furthermore, like Radiohead after them, Joy Division use technology to make music about the alienating effects of technology. Electronica, distorted guitars and machine beats create an eerie, alienating post-industrial soundscape.
Yet for all the innovation, Joy Division were a rock band and they possess virtues common to other great rock musicians. Twenty Four Hours has driving rhythms and brilliantly layered guitar effects, and Decades and The Eternal have hauntingly beautiful melodies. This is an iconoclastic record, a challenging record, but it is a masterpiece nonetheless.
Reviewed By: Paddlesteamer