Joy Division - Still
This is a mixed album of a live set, which is appallingly recorded, but nonetheless contains some of their greatest tracks, and a studio album including outtakes and material that had not been issued but which was intended to form the nucleus of a new album before Ian Curtis committed suicide. The album was issued a year after that suicide and was intended to provide a kind of wrapping up of all things Joy Division by releasing all that was unreleased. In retrospect, I am not sure that was a good idea. It was probably too soon to take such a step so quickly after the band's demise, but the reason behind it seems to have been principally one of cashing in while the memory is still strong. There needed to be a decent gap before a true retrospective was to be issued. As a consequence, the album has, in places, a kind of rushed feel about it.
The first disc contains the previously unreleased studio stuff. As is often the case with compilations, the fact that it touches on the band's output at various points along the career make it seem disjointed and lacking coherence. Maybe that is supposed to be the point in this case, I truly do not know. However, what stands out is the inclusion of "Dead Souls", named presumably after the Gogol story of the same name, a truly incredible song which matches screaming, cascading guitars with the spiritual desolation implicit in the title of the track. Without doubt, this is my favourite Joy Division track and the inclusion of it here alone makes this a worthwhile purchase.
The album does not really get going with the second disc, the live disc, either. The production is appalling, almost sub bootleg quality. The choice of songs is good, and in some cases inspired ("Ceremony" and "Isolation" are among the highlights, the former of which is not usually associated with Joy Division but is famous for the masterful reworking of it by New Order). But the live performance is often marred by poor musicianship - crappy drumming on "Disorder" and boring guitar work on "Passover" being just two of the more egregious examples. What is most noticeable about the live side, however, is how tired and dejected Ian Curtis's voice sounds on this, even when he is speaking. Here was truly a man at the end of the line.
It is a pity that the live set is so poor because otherwise this would have made a largely mediocre album into an excellent one. As it is, it is mediocre, there can be no doubt about that. It should serve as a warning to anyone who thinks that rushed issues intended to cash in are in any way a good idea. However, it will always be but saved from oblivion by some superb moments - "Dead Souls" is one of my favourite tracks of all time. If for no other track than that, this album is one that is worth having.
So, no more Joy Division and this stands as their last testament. It could have been, should have been so much better. Cue the ghouls who now start issuing anything and everything they could find with Ian Curtis on it: crappy live recordings through to farting around with a guitar in a studio. They should leave him, and Joy Division be, for us all to remember them as they truly should be remembered. I guess the need for money will always trump the memory of the dead in the end.
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on 2011-03-21 CharlesMartel Said:
This album has just been reissued with "previously unreleased" material. Given that so much of this album was substandard, it really makes you wonder.