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Music / Unknown Pleasures

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"Tears of sadness for you. More upheaval for you. Reflects a moment in time, a special moment in time."

"This is the car at the edge of the road,
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?
Where will it end? Where will it end?"
— "Day of the Lords"

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 that frontman Ian Curtis lived to see released, as he took his own life in 1980; a posthumous album, Closer, was released two months after his 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.

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.

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:


  1. "Disorder" (3:32)
  2. "Day of the Lords" (4:49)
  3. "Candidate" (3:05)
  4. "Insight" (4:29)
  5. "New Dawn Fades" (4:47)


  1. "She's Lost Control" (3:57)
  2. "Shadowplay" (3:55)
  3. "Wilderness" (2:38)
  4. "Interzone" (2:16)
  5. "I Remember Nothing" (5:53)

Bonus Disc: The Factory, Manchester Live 13 July 1979 (included with the 2007 remaster):

  1. "Dead Souls" (4:25)
  2. "The Only Mistake" (4:12)
  3. "Insight" (3:52)
  4. "Candidate" (2:07)
  5. "Wilderness" (2:32)
  6. "She's Lost Control" (3:47)
  7. "Shadowplay" (3:34)
  8. "Disorder" (3:28)
  9. "Interzone" (2:05)
  10. "Atrocity Exhibition" (6:14)
  11. "Novelty" (4:28)
  12. "Transmission" (3:49)

Principal Members:

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
  • Alternate Album Cover: The 40th anniversary reissue inverts the color scheme of the entire album packaging, such that what once was black is now white, and vice-versa.
  • Awful Wedded Life: "Candidate":
    I tried to get to you
    You 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 all
    No portrait so fine, only sheets on the wall
    I've seen the nights, filled with blood-sport and pain
    And 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. Hannett, however, set the circuit to the lowest possible time, foregoing the traditional "chamber" effect associated with this trope in favor of a ghostly warble.
  • 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" revolves around a man who travels the world and constantly encounters depraved groups of people who act on their most hateful instincts, celebrating "the power and glory of sin" to the point where the narrator compares them to Jesus' crucifiers.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The two sides of the LP and cassette versions are labeled "Outside" and "Inside".
  • Innocent Bystander: The protagonist in "Shadowplay" notes how he "could only stare in disbelief" throughout the song's events; he ultimately calls the "innocent" part into question out of guilt.
  • Letting the Air out of the Band: The end of "Candidate".
  • Literary Allusion Title: "Interzone" is named after a location in William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch.
  • Longest Song Goes Last: "I Remember Nothing", which is nearly six minutes long.
  • 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 escape
    And laughed I've lost control
    She'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 to
    I 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: Frequently considered the Trope Codifier for the British side of the movement, with its forebodingly cavernous sound and brooding lyrics being imitated by a large number of acts in the years after its release.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out: Peter Saville's cover took some design cues from Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon, with a simple, abstract design based on a scientific image against a black background.
  • 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 beware
    And all you judges beware
    Sons of chance, take good care
    For all the people not there
    I'm not afraid anymore
    I'm not afraid anymore
    I'm not afraid anymore
    Oh, 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.