People often speculate about what a third Joy Division album would have sounded like or how a fourth Nirvana record would have turned out. In both cases people wring their hands about being robbed of what surely would have been an essential piece of work. To yearn for a lost masterpiece from either band though is to miss the point. Both Kurt Cobain and Joy Division singer Ian Curtis were tortured souls and both bands were doomed from the start. The fact that their lights shone so briefly is what makes their frustratingly small musical output so astonishing. No matter how successful both groups became (and arguably because of this) the alienation, loneliness and drug addiction(Cobain)/epilepsy(Curtis) would have got them in the end.
Joy Division is an exhaustive bbc4 documentary taking in the bands humble beginnings as Warsaw after forming at the infamous Sex Pistols gig at the Manchester Free Trade Hall to Curtis’ death on the eve of an America tour.
While it is really interesting to see interviews with Tony Wilson (RIP) and to see and hear archive footage from producer Martin Hannett and Joy Division manager Rob Gretton, it is the interviews with the band themselves as well as the live footage from the shows that leave a lasting impression.
Hooky, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris make for insightful and funny interviewees and while the story of Joy Division and Curtis is a dark one, the three former band mates inject a lot of warmth and poignancy in to what is a brilliant documentary.
Totally essential for any Joy Division/New Order fan, Joy Division would also make a great introduction for anyone interesting in discovering Joy Division for the first time.
Joy Division is unflashy yet full of bravado, visceral yet funny. I get the feeling that Curtis would have approved…
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