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Classic of the Week

March 02, 1995|JON MATSUMOTO

Joy Division

"Unknown Pleasures" (1980)

Qwest

*

There is little joyous about the dark and disquieting music of Joy Division. Indeed, the debut album by this band from Manchester, England, has far more to do with pain and alienation than with any pleasures, known or unknown.

This penetrating feeling of Angst and despair in this chilling work are heightened by the tragic nature of the group itself. In May, 1980, just hours before the band was to depart for its first American tour, its doleful singer, Ian Curtis, hanged himself. Curtis' suicide instantly cast the quartet as Gothic rock gods. During the '80s, Joy Division disciples, like New York's Swans, would find much inspiration in the band's patented gloom-and-doom sound.

"Unknown Pleasures" wasn't quite like any rock record that had come before it. Curtis' emotionally naked baritone and his fascination with death and isolation--not to mention his premature departure--made Jim Morrison comparisons inevitable. But the group's total musical package was unique. Stephen Morris' dispassionate and mechanical drum patterns and Bernard Albrecht's serrated guitar figures also helped to shape a core of dirgy songs that are monumental in their sense of desolation. "Day of the Lords," "Candidate" and the lengthy "I Remember Nothing" may be underdeveloped melodically, but they quiver with a raw and sometimes nightmarish strength.

The album's more uptempo tracks carry a more immediate and seductive pull.

Peter Hook's loquacious bass runs and some alternately pretty and abrasive guitar leads help make "Shadowplay" a pleasingly melancholy rocker. "Disorder" and the punkish "Interzone" are quasi-dance songs for the cemetery set.

Joy Division disbanded immediately after Curtis' death. A second album, "Closer," was released in 1980 after the breakup.

In 1987, the band's non-album tracks--including its signature track, the gorgeous but sullen "Love Will Tear Us Apart"--were compiled on a disc called "Substance."

Hook, Albrecht (now known as Bernard Sumner) and Morris recruited guitar-synthesizer player Gillian Gilbert in 1980 and forged on as New Order.

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