On the back of the wave of British punk that had dominated the alternative music scene at the time, Joy Division launched their career with the debut album Unknown Pleasures. Featuring an astrophysical radio telescope readout, the happy and jumpy album begins with a tight knit drum riff that instantaneously injects more energy than we need in order to move around. As the vocal line begins, after a juicy bass melody that resembles bassline music of today, its clear that this band want more out of their music than the traditional punks we may have been used to.
Rather than using direct recording equipment to create the album, although made independently, studio equipment was utilised to produce a more spaced and well balanced sound. Some of the key factors in the punk genre have not been ignored however, and twangy and powerful guitars ride like mighty tsunamis over the steady pulse of the rhythm section. Famously made over a series of weekends in Strawberry Studios, this fresh and groundbreaking project was made after the initial success of an earlier self-released EP called “An Ideal For Living”.
The album plays like most rock albums do, with great songs back to back, each with their own distinct flavour. With a name like Joy Division, we may be forgiven for assuming that the music is always upbeat. Although not particularly melancholy, the tone is sometimes that of a dreary and rainy afternoon with overused black and white films on the TV. There's an element of angst that is stitched into the lyrics and guitar effects, musicianship plays an important role however we have to pay attention to get to grips with exactly how much of this is composed and not just jammed in one evening.
The use of samples plays a vital and pioneering role in this work, although they had been used before, the extent of their use and the genre were novelties, as well as the manner in which they were used. Rather than forming rhythms of unusual sound, odd intermediary sonics interestingly add filling and intrigue. Generally light hearted and easy on the ear, the sound of the record sets the mark for many other artists to follow throughout the 1980s.
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