Music » CD Reviews

Joy Division

Heartandsoul (Warner Archives/Rhino)


Ian Curtis's quasi-romantic legacy -- he hanged himself the night before his band, Joy Division, was to come to the States for a tour -- has, rightly or wrongly, inspired lots of kids to start bands, write death-obsessed poems, and reconsider their lives. His haunting monotone, plus the band's numbed minor-chord backing, was post-punk before anybody knew what to call it. There always has been something tragic about the music, even before Curtis's fateful decision in 1980: It's melancholy, depressive, and cynical (which pretty much sums up the swan song "Love Will Tear Us Apart").

Heartandsoul's four-disc box holds just about all the Joy Division anyone would ever need. In addition to every studio recording the band released, it is filled with live tracks, outtakes, one-off singles, and BBC radio performances. Various versions of the same songs are completely different (for example, the band was more "punk" in concert than it ever was in the studio), but, taken together, they serve as a portrait of a group doomed to destruction. Early recordings (like the initial EP and singles leading to its debut album, Unknown Pleasures) never quite work up the groove that would sustain later work. The connection between Joy Division and New Order -- the band that evolved after Curtis's death -- isn't made clear until 1980's Closer, an album that's represented in its entirety on disc two. An evocative blend of gloom-and-doom sentiment (courtesy of Curtis) and rhythm-based melody (courtesy of the band), Closer relates in nine sharp songs what is made redundantly clear in Heartandsoul's four-plus hours: Curtis was a moody wretch, and Joy Division indulged his neuroses. Further exploration of these themes is possible via the box's other 72 cuts.

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