There's nothing disturbed, all the windows are closed,
I guess you were right, when we talked in the heat,
There's no room for the weak, no room for the weak.
Where will it end? Where will it end?"
Unknown Pleasures is the debut studio album by English Post-Punk group Joy Division, released in 1979 as the very first album from Factory Records. It would be the only full musical album front singer Ian Curtis lived to see released, as he took his own life in 1980; a posthumous album, Closer, was released following Ian's suicide.
At the time of the album's release, the band had already instigated a shift from their origins as a standard Sex Pistols-inspired Punk Rock band, with Factory's mad producer Martin Hannett introducing a number of processing effects that turned what were once Three Chords and the Truth songs into sparser, more haunting dirges and shrieks of anguish. Unknown Pleasures, by comparison, marked the point where these techniques first started to truly become a major artistic force in the British music landscape, leading the album to be regarded as a seminal release in the British side of the post-punk movement. Most other acts in the scene owe a great deal of their own sound and style to this album, and Closer would only further up the ante one year later.
Upon release, the album was massively acclaimed by the majority of critics, who praised its cavernous, enigmatic sound that lent to it a distinctly labyrinthine quality not previously heard in British rock. Its acclaim would only further grow after Ian Curtis' suicide, being near-unanimously upheld today as one of the greatest albums ever made. Fan favourites from this album include "Disorder", "Day of the Lords", "Insight", "She's Lost Control", "Interzone" and "Shadowplay". While the album failed to chart on initial release in the U.K. Official Albums Chart, it peaked at No. 2 on the U.K. indie chart when it was first published in January 1980. Later, the album peaked at No. 71 on the standard U.K. Albums chart when it was reissued following Ian Curtis' suicide, as well as topping the indie chart at the same time. The album completely missed the Billboard album chart when it was belatedly released stateside in October 1980, but received wide critical acclaim. The album would later go on to be placed at No. 40 on NME's 2013 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and currently sits at No. 67 on Acclaimed Music's dynamic list of the 3000 most critically lauded albums.
Breaking tradition with the industry standard, no singles were released to support Unknown Pleasures. A re-recording of "She's Lost Control" was included as a B-side to a posthumous reissue of the non-album single "Atmosphere", but that's about it. This would set a precedent that would carry over into the early output of New Order as well, with the Curtis-less incarnation of the Manchester quartet not putting out any album singles until Low-Life in 1985.
Original 1979 LP:Outside
- "Disorder" (3:32)
- "Day of the Lords" (4:49)
- "Candidate" (3:05)
- "Insight" (4:29)
- "New Dawn Fades" (4:47)
- "She's Lost Control" (3:57)
- "Shadowplay" (3:55)
- "Wilderness" (2:38)
- "Interzone" (2:16)
- "I Remember Nothing" (5:53)
Bonus Disc: The Factory, Manchester Live 13 July 1979 (included with the 2007 remaster):
- "Dead Souls" (4:25)
- "The Only Mistake" (4:12)
- "Insight" (3:52)
- "Candidate" (2:07)
- "Wilderness" (2:32)
- "She's Lost Control" (3:47)
- "Shadowplay" (3:34)
- "Disorder" (3:28)
- "Interzone" (2:05)
- "Atrocity Exhibition" (6:14)
- "Novelty" (4:28)
- "Transmission" (3:49)
- Ian Curtis - lead vocals
- Peter Hook - bass, backing and lead vocals
- Stephen Morris - drums, percussion
- Bernard Sumner - guitar, keyboard
I've been waiting for a trope to come and take me by the hand:
- Accentuate the Negative: The album is depressing throughout.
- All for Nothing: "Candidate":I campaigned for nothing, I worked hard for this
- Awful Wedded Life: "Candidate":I tried to get to youYou treat me like this
- The Bad Guy Wins: "Day of the Lords":There's no room for the weak
- Continuity Nod: "Leave Me Alone" from New Order's Power, Corruption & Lies (1983) uses the same chord progression (on bass, at least) as "Shadowplay", albeit in a different key and slowed down a little.
- Crapsack World: It's a Joy Division album, after all.
- Deliberately Monochrome: The cover art, which suits the album's somber mood.
- Den of Iniquity: "Day of the Lords":This is the room, the start of it allNo portrait so fine, only sheets on the wallI've seen the nights, filled with blood-sport and painAnd the bodies obtained, the bodies obtained.
- Design Student's Orgasm: Peter Saville's Textless Album Cover, which is based on an image of radio waves from pulsar CP 1919.
- Despair Event Horizon: Most songs would apply, most strikingly in "New Dawn Fades" where Curtis sings he's not afraid anymore to make an end to his life.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: "Disorder":I've been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand,Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man?
- Downer Ending: Not that the album is particularly upbeat anyway, but "I Remember Nothing" manages to be this, being a lengthy synth dirge about the distance Curtis felt from his acquaintances.
- Driven to Suicide: A theme of the album, which in hindsight feels eerily prescient in the wake of Curtis' death the year after this album's release.
- Echoing Acoustics: Martin Hannett's production used a lot of reverb, courtesy of then-new digital delay. The echoes give the album a ghostly feel.
- Empty Shell: Induced by feelings of depression. Particularly prominent in "New Dawn Fades":It was me, waiting for me, hoping for something more,Me, seeing me this time, hoping for something else
- Everything Is an Instrument: According to the liner notes of the 2007 Collector's Edition, Martin Hannett incorporated processed samples of bottles smashing, backwards guitar, a Leslie speaker playing inside the studio building's elevator, and even a person eating crisps into the album.
- Goth Rock: A cornerstone of Post-Punk that influenced the genre.
- Humans Are Bastards: "Wilderness":"I traveled far and wide through prisons of the crossWhat did you see there?The power and glory of sinWhat did you see there?The blood of Christ on their skins"
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The two sides of the vinyl version are labeled "Outside" and "Inside".
- Innocent Bystander: The protagonist in "Shadowplay":"As the assassins all grouped in four lines, dancing on the floor,And with cold steel, odour on their bodies made a move to connect,But I could only stare in disbelief as the crowds all left."
- Letting the Air Out of the Band: The end of "Candidate".
- Longest Song Goes Last: "I Remember Nothing", which is nearly six minutes long.
- Madden Into Misanthropy: "She's Lost Control":And how I'll never know just why or understandShe said I've lost control again.And she screamed out kicking on her sideAnd said I've lost control again.And seized up on the floor, I thought she'd die.She said I've lost control.She's lost control again.She's lost control.
- A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: Assuming that the lyrics reflect Ian's thoughts.
- Mind Screw: "She's Lost Control":And walked upon the edge of no escapeAnd laughed I've lost controlShe's lost control again
- Minimalistic Cover Art: Just an image of radio waves on a black background.
- My God, What Have I Done?: "Shadowplay":I did everything, everything I wanted toI let them use you for their own ends
- Non-Indicative Name: This gloomy album isn't about "unknown pleasures" at all. Or, in a bit of Fridge Brilliance, it is, since those feelings are "unknown".
- Post-Punk: A cornerstone of the genre, frequently considered the Trope Codifier for the British side of the movement. For a while, it was labeled the outright Trope Maker of post-punk as a whole by music analysts, but later observations noted that it had already been forming as early as 1976, around the time when Punk Rock itself began to have a defined sound. Still, most will agree that a huge chunk of British post-punk is indebted to the template that Unknown Pleasures first set, with its forebodingly cavernous sound and brooding lyrics being imitated by a large number of acts in the years after its release, itself generally seen as the start of post-punk's brief but massively influential four-year heyday.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: "She's Lost Control" was inspired by a woman with epilepsy at Ian's day job attempting to find employment for her, as well as Ian's own experiences with epilepsy. When the woman stopped showing up, he called her home to find she'd died after a seizure, resulting in him spending the rest of his life paranoid about dying the same way (to the point where his wife had to monitor him whenever he went to bed to make sure he wouldn't have a seizure in his sleep).
- Refrain from Assuming: No, the song is not called "Remember When We Were Young"; it's called "Insight".
- Religion Is Wrong: "Wilderness" lambasts atrocities committed in the name of Christ:I saw all knowledge destroyed(...) The blood of Christ on their skins
- Self-Backing Vocalist: "I Remember Nothing" has Ian backing himself via overdub.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Peter Hook sings lead on "Interzone", although Ian Curtis does the background vocal.
- Suicide Is Painless: "Insight":And all God's angels bewareAnd all you judges bewareSons of chance, take good careFor all the people not thereI'm not afraid anymoreI'm not afraid anymoreI'm not afraid anymoreOh, I'm not afraid anymore
- Tears of Remorse: "Shadowplay", where Curtis feels guilty of letting the assassins "use you for their own ends".
- Time Travel: "Wilderness", in which Curtis sings as if he's an ancient traveler who saw nothing but mankind's misery and despair around him.
- With Friends Like These...: "I Remember Nothing".
- Wretched Hive: The lyrics paint the image of one.
- You Cannot Kill An Idea: Inverted in "Wilderness":I saw all knowledge destroyed.
- The X of Y: "Day of the Lords".