Peter Hook recalled in his memoir that long after Joy Division ended and the surviving members reformed as New Order, they were once being audited by a government tax agent who asked why there wasn’t any proof of income for all the Joy Division t-shirts he’d seen people wearing over the years. Hook explained that Joy Division never actually sold official merch, as they always deemed it patronizing and exploitative of their fans, and any Joy Division shirts that existed were unofficial bootlegs (they've since changed their policy. also the tax agent didn’t buy it and hit them with an enormous fine). Fast forward to 2019 and Peter Saville’s iconic album cover for Unknown Pleasures (little known fact: it was actually Bernard Sumner who found the image in an encyclopedia and showed it to Saville) has been memed and repurposed so many times and in such reprehensible ways (“Where will it end? Where will it end???”), I don’t even want to listen to the record anymore! In fact, this 40th anniversary version with inverse monochromatic artwork has given me the perspective I needed to shake out of my stupor and remember that this album is actually sick as hell. Drop the needle on side A (“Disorder”) and the album starts off as innocently as anything from 1979, with what would become one of Hook’s signature high-neck b-lines and Stephen Morris’ crispy drum rolls introducing what is probably the 20th century’s most tragic and influential bands in uncharacteristically (and obliviously) celebratory fashion. Tumble deeper into “Day Of The Lords” and feel the full weight of Ian Curtis' depression / epilepsy (not to mention the immaculateness of Martin Hannett’s production) bearing down on you. There’s no real standouts to mention, as the whole album is a linear, deadpan report from life in economically and emotionally downturned northern England, even down to the nihilistic coda “I Remember Nothing” which winds down the record rather unceremoniously with a quick fade out into some clanging metal noises. As such, there were no singles released to support the album, and nothing on the record comes close to the severely catchy “Transmission,” or “Love Will Tear Us Apart” that came before and after. Except for *maybe* “She’s Lost Control,” which, with the glassy drums and the devolving space echo on Curtis’ voice, is far and away the best version (anyone who prefers the 12” version is a cop!). This pressing includes the great-sounding 2007 remastered versions of the album’s ten tracks presented in their original running order, on heavyweight red vinyl with reverse color sleeve design. Never thought I’d need an excuse to revisit an album as seminal and ubiquitous as this one, but alas. Recommended.
- 40th anniversary edition
- 180g ruby red colored vinyl
- includes 2007 remaster of the album's original 10 tracks
- limited edition
- music label: Warner Brothers 2019
reviewed by Isosceles Kramer 05/2019