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Unknown Pleasures

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Performer Notes
  • Joy Division: Ian Curtis (vocals); Bernard Sumner (guitar, keyboards); Peter Hook (bass); Stephen Morris (drums).
  • Recorded at Strawberry Studios, Stockport, England.
  • If U.K. punk was the outward expression of nihilism and youthful rebellion, the music of Joy Division signaled a sea change toward its bleaker, darker, more introspective side--in the process, giving birth to an influential, highly original sound that was to have recurring echoes in the subsequent goth, new wave, and post-punk movements. Quickly following on the heels of an aborted album for RCA, the band regrouped with producer Martin Hannett for their 1979 debut, UNKNOWN PLEASURES. A landmark release in the history of modern music--being sui generis to the social and spiritual landscape of post-war England--the album is perhaps the most powerful and evocative statement of existential dread ever recorded.
  • Pruning away at the band's brash, ragged energy to reveal cavernous spaces filled with decaying chords and hollowed-out rhythms, UNKNOWN PLEASURES is as much a testament to Hannett's bold production touches as it is to Joy Division's powerful performances--Bernard Sumner's caustic riffing, Peter Hook's melodic basslines, Stephen Morris's martial rhythms, and Ian Curtis's potent, focused verse. Hannett wisely sidesteps naturalism in favor of noir-like claustrophobia, draping the instrumentation under spectral phantasms of found sound (breaking glass, elevator shafts, and footsteps). From the breathless, punk thrash of the opening track, "Disorder," to the melancholic despair of "Candidate," the songs form arcs of shade and light, revealing layers of energy and emotional intensity. Continuing with the taut, doom-laden rattle of "She's Lost Control," its snapping synth drums seem to signal some agonizing form of psychological restraint from which to escape. The album closes with the harrowing, apocalyptic denouement of "I Remember Nothing," in which Curtis's sorrowful croon declaims, "we, we're strangers," over crashing drums and a funereal drone--a suitably dramatic end to one of the most cathartic, devastatingly powerful albums ever recorded.
Professional Reviews
Rolling Stone (4/11/02, p.107) - Ranked #24 in Rolling Stone's "50 Coolest Records" - "...Punk on the edge of goth, with echoes of disco and the Doors..."

Spin - Included in Spin's list of the Top Ten College Cult Classics.

Spin (5/01, p.109) - Ranked #11 in Spin's "50 Most Essential Punk Records" - "...A rolling murk of wrist-slash guitars, meat-locker ambience, death-disco beats, and funereal siren-songing. Goth starts here."

Q (p.113) - 5 stars out of 5 -- "[S]imply ferocious....'Shadowplay' ramps up the guitars to Hannett-defying levels and 'Transmission' could have an eye out."

Q (6/00, p.78) - Ranked #19 in Q's "100 Greatest British Albums"

Q (9/93, p.97) - 5 Stars - Indispensible - "...UNKNOWN PLEASURES [is] so fully realized, it [doesn't] sound like the debut from four Manchester oiks [Joy Division]....Exhausting listening, but never inaccessible..."

Magnet (p.112) - "Joy Division - like the Velvet Underground before it - now boasts an ever-widening sphere of musical influence, far greater in depth than it ever had in its short lifespan."

The Wire (p.68) - "UNKNOWN PLEASURES derives much of its musical force from a classical configuration of tensions..."

Mojo (Publisher) (3/03, p.76) - Ranked #26 in Mojo's "Top 50 Punk Albums".

Mojo (Publisher) (9/01, p.86) - "...Retained the nervy, paranoid energy of punk but...ended up some place entirely 'other'..."

NME (Magazine) (8/12/00, p.28) - Ranked #10 in The NME "Top 30 Heartbreak Albums".

NME (Magazine) (9/11/93, p.18) - Ranked #4 in NME's list of The Greatest Albums Of The '70s - "...Ian Curtis made epilepsy momentarily hip with the funereal brooding of 'Atmosphere' and panicky congestion of 'She's Lost Control.' Let's party!..."

NME (Magazine) (7/3/93, p.36) - 10 - Classic - "...Thirteen years on and UNKNOWN PLEASURES is still not so much a record as a full-scale nuclear winter...."

NME (Magazine) (10/2/93, p.29) - Ranked #43 in NME's list of the 'Greatest Albums Of All Time.'

Blender (Magazine) (p.157) - 4.5 stars out of 5 -- "[I]ntense, somber....[The album] inverts punk's unified roar into distant alienation..."
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