herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

An inspiration of the first Division

You really know time is racing along when bands you loved in your early 20s start turning up as specialist subjects on Mastermind. It's already happened with the Sex Pistols, Clash and even XTC (Andy Partridge from the band got two questions less than the bloke in the black chair - true!) so I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised a couple of weeks back when a chap of a certain age opted to answer questions on Joy Division.

Although they only released two studio albums and were a functioning band for less than three years, Joy Division were one of the most influential post-punk acts of all, their 1979 debut Unknown Pleasures and 1980 farewell Closer setting a template for doom-laden, portentious music by young men with weights on their shoulders which lasts to this day.

One could argue that, on a musical level, they laid the groundwork for Goth while the lyrics and intense stage performances of lead singer Ian Curtis (inset) spoke of a commitment which went far and above the call of duty. That Curtis hanged himself in May 1980, two months before the release of Closer, added to the aura of mystery which surrounds the band, one explored with depth and humour in Joy Division, a feature-length documentary which BBC4 will screen this coming Friday at 9pm.

Comprising rare live footage with TV appearances and interviews with Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris (who formed New Order after Curtis's suicide) you get the sense that Joy Division were very serious about their music but quite a normal bunch of lads behind it all. The music is quite superb though, and while the great Love Will Tear Us Apart was their only real hit to speak of there are plenty more gems.

Alluring

Transmission, She's Lost Control, New Dawn Fades, Isolation, Shadowplay, Atrocity Exhibition and the truly beautiful Atmosphere still sound as alluring, powerful and other-worldly today as they did when first released, while the groundbreaking work in Peter Saville's sleeve designs and the late Martin Hannet's innovative production all added to the impact of a band who may have been inspired by punk but well and truly transcended it.

> George Byrne

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