LP: Closer by Joy Division
2008 Factory (?) FACT 25, FACT XXV, Unofficial, Red vinyl, autographed 2013 at Joseph-Beth Booksellers
Favorite Track: Isolation
I still remember the day I passed up purchasing original Factory Records of both Joy Division albums. I had just started collecting vinyl and I had no idea how scarcity worked. Vinyl was starting to come back into popularity and price tags were starting to be raised. I tried never to spend more than 10 dollars for a single record, preferring to buy five or six records at a time instead of just one “good” one. They were 20 dollars each, the most I had ever seen for a record at the time although that would soon change. Joy Division is my favorite band, I told myself. I held them in my hands, debating. I’m sure I made one or two of the store employers wonder if I was having a fit or trying to work up the courage to try and dash through the door. I put them back and left the store without buying anything.
I live in regret. And with a red bootleg of the album that changed my life.
Alas, I changed my buying purchases. Some people may laugh at me for buying the “outrageous” prices that are usually slapped on a punk LP these days. They can. But I don’t care anymore. I don’t have the luck or the time to search out every punk album I want to find the cheapest copy. Most of the original copies I have purchased have been cheaper than the brand new re-issues. Ultimately, what matters is that I love the music that is on the disc. I wasn’t even alive for when most of my favorite bands were making these albums anyways. I am not trying to be authentic or cool or to hold bragging rights. I simply like music and am willing to spend my hard earned money on it.
So when I discovered that Peter Hook and the Light were coming to Cincinnati to perform a set of New Order songs followed by both Joy Division albums in their entirety, you better believed I jumped out of my socks, danced, hollered, and started asking all my friends to come with me. Some “purists” probably immediately dismissed the show because Peter Hook was the only original member cashing in on the eternal popularity of Joy Division and who could sing like Ian Curtis? Perhaps, although I am positive Peter Hook was doing it more to honor his dead friend of 35 years (longer than the poor bloke was alive). But I say Joy Division never got to tour America in the first place. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity unless you are someone who can pack up and go see them in multiple cities or you get lucky and they do the tour again. This is the closest I can get to the dream.
Behind them were giant roll-outs of the Unknown Pleasures and Closer album covers. The band came out to a thunderous applause and Peter Hook, wearing a yellow A Certain Ratio Hacienda t-shirt, asked if we were feeling lonesome tonight. I didn’t get that was the song title. More embarrassingly, I discovered it is the B-side to Thieves Like Us, which I own. Guess I better spin that when I get home. Lonesome Tonight was followed by As It Is When It Was and This Time of Night, two New Order songs I was not familiar with. I was toe-tapping though despite some early keyboard/sound problems. Sooner Than You Think and Subculture really got me into the groove. No disrespect to Peter Hook or his son Jack who were playing bass; they were great. But, especially during the Joy Division material, David Potts stole my attention numerous times with his guitar work. He really showcased the strength of those riffs. The last two New Order songs were Age of Consent and Blue Monday, two of my favorites with Blue Monday being one of my favorite dance songs. The venue was crowded enough that I couldn’t go into full-arm swing dance mode, but I did my best to not step on toes and give the little 8-year girl a chance to see.
They took a short break and I expected the opening bass riff of Unknown Pleasures, which was going to send shivers down my spine. Instead, the drum began the long robotic drumming of Atrocity Exhibition. Ah, they were playing Closer first. Which meant my ALL-TIME FAVORITE SONG ISOLATION WAS NEXT! Atrocity Exhibition was great and a little different from the Martin Hannett production as to be expected. I have a couple of live Joy Division albums where they sound like metal crushing more metal and the the sparse space sound Hannett captures in the studio is lost to feedback and cheap speakers. The few live recordings I have heard of Atrocity lack the power of Hannett’s recording, but the Light were doing the song justice. Then Isolation came on.
Oh that synthesizer, those drums. A perfect combination of angst and rhythm. I sang out loud, sorry people around me. Joy Division became my favorite band the minute I heard the drums of Atrocity Exhibition back when I bought Closer on a whim my Freshman year of college. But it was Ian Curtis’s lyrics that took this weird band from being the band of the minute to the band of all-time. Isolation holds a strong personal connection with me and to hear it reverberating through Bogart’s as I was already working up a sweat and doing my best Ian Curtis dance impression wearing my red dress shirt (it looks like one he was wearing in a picture I saw in MOJO magazine also purchased my Freshman year) will be one of my favorite concert reveries in the future. Heck, it already is today.
The bass on Passover was outstanding. I was glad they were playing the albums in order because Joy Division is heavy with atmospheric songs. Some people may look at them as filler and not worthy of being played live, but I disagree. Everything about Joy Division is weird and the brooding beauty of their “ballads” are dynamic during a live show. For the most part, Peter Hook was austere, said little to the crowd, and just let the music speak for itself. He loosened up a bit for Colony and sold its cryptic repetition of “God in His wisdom took you by the hand / God in His wisdom made you understand.” A Means to the End and Heart and Soul are just great dance songs. This concert was already beyond my wildest fantasies. If I had a girlfriend, she probably would have broken up with me at this point or married me on the spot.
Twenty Four Hours is something everyone needs to hear live. Peter Hook did a swell job on the vocals, but again David Potts stole my attention. What a guitar riff. The Eternal was the weakest song of the night, in my humble opinion, but only because I think the bassist and the drummer got out of sync. The sound man came out a few times during the show fiddling with the bass amp which I think the synth was also hooked into. No problem for me though. Decades sounded like the funeral dirge it always sounds like. A great album closer. Peter Hook and the Light took a short break.
At this point, someone had texted me “When is the Joy Division show?” Ummm, sorry?!
They came on stage again. Alright, I thought to myself, here comes that Disorder bass line that is going to send everyone into dance craziness. Instead another song came on. It was Glass but I had mistaken it as Day of the Lords at first, thinking oh they are going to save Disorder for last. Glass was good. They segued right into Disorder and, for a moment, everyone was confused and then they recognized the tune and people started bobbing their heads and shouting. I have to say I saw a few people recording on their cameras but not as bad as I would have thought. Then Day of the Lords and Candidate made me wish I was at those early Joy Division shows. What kind of music was this? Punk rockers must have been baffled.
Everyone sang to Insight. RIP Ian Curtis, your words still mean a lot to people.
New Dawn Fades, She’s Lost Control, Shadowplay, Wilderness and Interzone were like the grand finale. If you were hating the show up to that moment for some reason, it was at this point you probably stopped hating and had a blast. These songs are indestructible to blase attitudes. Peter Hook sang I Remember Nothing like he really wanted everyone to be his friend. Perhaps he needed that because I can’t imagine what kind of memories were going through his head as he sang his dead friend’s lyrics.
Cincinnati needs to work on its encore cheering. Chicago has you way beat and not because of sheer numbers.
Surprise song of the night: Komakino. Excellent guitar riff in that song. Not surprising at all but who cares because they are playing TRANSMISSION AND LOVE WILL TEAR US APART AND EVERYONE IS SINGING ALONG AND UNITED IN AWKWARDNESS!
Did I have a good time? Yes. Do I still regret not buying those original Factory Records? Maybe more than ever. But that is alright. You lose some, but they are never as big as you win.