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Forty years of Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division June 15, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I’m always curious about how cultural artefacts from the past survive. The idea in 1979 or 1980 when I started listening to Joy Division that they would be feted in an Irish Times piece forty years later would have been near incomprehensible. But, it has come to pass. That could easily be a function of not just a changing culture, and with rock and attached genres finding a purchase on what passes for a mainstream, but also demography as those who grew up with the album find positions in the media and so on.

Which raises the question what about twenty years from now or forty years? There is unquestionably a canon of sorts. They’re in there.
Will Joy Division still retain a niche within the culture though into the decades ahead? If it went one way or another I wouldn’t be entirely surprised. They might persist, or they might not.

As to the album itself, without question a classic of its kind – for me the tracks that I always loved were… … and … though I have to admit I might actually prefer Closer. Good, too, to see the unmistakeable influence of Joy Division on the early years of U2 acknowledged. But their influence was so much wider and appearing in the strangest places in music, and some predictable ones too – echoes of it in IDM and techno, in goth (though they were distinctly not a goth band) and elsewhere. Martin Hannett’s production was a huge part of this – they were apparently appalled by how the punkish band they were when they went into the recording studios turned into something entirely different on record. And the aesthetic, that cool, detached imagery generated by Peter Saville (and in fairness Anton Corbijn) so much a part of the overall phenomenon. Somehow despite working with the traditional template of rock, guitar, bass, drums and vocals, they managed to sound, and continue to, utterly of the moment.

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1. Phil - June 16, 2019

I went up to university in the autumn of 1979. For some reason I went to see an old English teacher a bit before then, and combined it with a trip to the local independent record shop, where I picked up a copy of Unknown Pleasures. My teacher’s wife – who I didn’t know at all, obviously(?) – came to the door and we chatted rather awkwardly. She asked about the record I was carrying; I exhibited it with a certain amount of pride and told her it was by Joy Division. She looked blank and said, “Oh. Are they… minor?” I must have agreed, but I remember thinking that, whatever else you could call Joy Division, they were definitely not ‘minor’.

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WorldbyStorm - June 16, 2019

Haha! A cultural gap there.

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