Friday, March 11, 2016

Ultimate Playlists 5: Joy Division


Have you ever been to a concert and wished the band had played certain songs? I know I have. The reality is, you'll never get exactly what you want. However, you are free to build any playlist you like. I have decided to write a series showcasing the Top 20 songs from some of my favorite bands.

For those of you who are old enough to remember cassette tapes, you'll know the terrible anguish of trying to fit the songs together. How annoying when the last song you picked was still playing as the tape ran out! Those days are over and it's now a simple task to throw together a playlist using your computer, iPod or a USB. I know that having USB capability has enhanced my driving pleasure because it's so easy to update a list of songs.

But there's also more to creating a playlist than simply deciding which songs to include. Like an actual concert, or even a single song, a good playlist features changes in mood and tempo. If a band opens with the three songs that the audience most wants to hear, the rest of the performance might fall flat. My own particular method of creating a playlist has a number of considerations:


  • Mix up the duration of the songs
  • Put space between songs from the same album, unless the two are better when played in sequence
  • Build to a natural high, slow it down again, and finish with a real flourish
  • Put in some newer songs close to the start, assuming there are newer songs worthy of inclusion
  • For bands with more than one vocalist, mix up the sequence depending on who is singing
  • Speed and style matters, so mix it up unless there is a good reason not to
  • Albums often have a great choice of opening and closing song that work best in that particular spot 
  • The final three or four songs might resemble an encore if it was a real concert
  • Leave the listener satisfied and wanting more 

Joy Division formed in 1976 as Warsaw, releasing an album of the same name. I considered all of those songs for the purposes of this playlist. The band's sound started as something that wall slot neatly into the punk category, but evolved into a dark and majestic thing that I had never heard before. Interpol did a pretty good job of revisiting that style on their early albums, but I believe Joy Division to be in a league of their own.

Ian Curtis was the lead singer and most of the songs deal with what he was feeling when he was in love with two different women. Other songs touch on such joyous subjects as epilepsy. I know a lot of people who think that Joy Division's music would be a good choice if you were planning on slitting your wrists, but I can't agree. This music just soars, despite the rough edges of Curtis' vocals. Peter Hook's bass is an essential element of the music and some songs feature bass leads. Bernard Sumner (guitar/keyboards) and Stephen Morris (drums) complete the lineup.

For a band named after a Nazi brothel, with a lead singer who committed suicide, I find Joy Division's music surprisingly uplifting. The sounds is so dense and layered. If you check out the excellent movie, Control, you'll almost certainly appreciate the music even more. These songs are about real things that mattered enormously to Curtis.

With just two studio albums (plus Warsaw), compilations and live releases, we were robbed of what was at the time, a unique sound. As with all great artists, I find myself wondering what they would have produced had they been around much longer.

I would urge any fan to go and hear Peter Hook and the Light perform these incredible songs. It's as close as you're going to get to the original sound if you weren't around at the time. I was at an Unknown Pleasures show a few years ago and every hair was standing on end. I'm hoping that Peter Hook will play Closer in Toronto before I die, but I'll be there this November for Substance.

So let's get to the playlist. The order wasn't obvious for this one because with just two studio albums, you'll expect to hear the songs in the order from the album. I've created this with a live show in mind, with the last four tracks being the encore. If you're a fan, I would love to know what you think. Here's my YouTube playlist of these 20 songs.

Dead Souls
Disorder
Isolation
Day of the Lords
Atrocity Exhibition
Novelty
Insight
Colony
She's Lost Control
Heart and Soul
Interzone
Passover
New Dawn Fades
Means To an End
Shadowplay
Decades
Love Will Tear Us Apart
Twenty Four Hours
Transmission
Atmosphere 

2 comments:

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