Q (9/93, p.97) - 4 Stars - Excellent
Joy Division: Ian Curtis (vocals), Bernard Sumner (guitar, keyboards), Peter Hook (bass), Stephen Morris (drums).
Photographer: Trevor Key.
After New Order released their own Substance compilation in 1987, it was perhaps inevitable that a similar and long-overdue collection would apply to Joy Division, especially given the out-of-print status of many of the band's singles. The end result turned up in 1988, and as a listen easily demonstrated that the same sheer sweep and energy that applied to the band over a full-length album similarly worked, even more so, with the focus of a 7" or 12" release. Though the earliest tracks like "Warsaw" and "Leaders of Men" were a strange sort of art punk, there was already something distinct about the group, and by the time of "Digital" and "Autosuggestion," it was perfectly apparent. The former centered around Curtis' circular declarations of repetition and angst, while "Autosuggestion" builds up slowly, carefully, before an invigorating final rush. After that, "Transmission," a cold blue laser light of power, sneaking on an echo of synth and Hook's commanding bass before Morris, recorded brilliantly by Hannett, simply takes control. And from there, up and up, the whole band reaching a peak with Curtis' anguished scream "And we could dance!" As gripping as that is, by the time of its final singles, Joy Division outstripped even that -- "Atmosphere" and "Dead Souls" arguably make some of the best singles ever, the former a haunting, minimal call, the latter an ever more wired and explosive portrait of demand on a soul, from some inescapable outside force. Then, of course, "Love Will Tear Us Apart," Joy Division's eternal calling card, the inadvertent final bow, the blueprint for endless cover versions, a portrait of love and connection endlessly turning in on itself to destruction, set to a beautiful melody and one of the band's warmest performances ever. ~ Ned Raggett