Throwback Thursday: Joy Division

More stories from Mattea McDonald


Photo Courtesy of Playbuzz

Let’s throw it back to 1976 England, where bands like the Sex Pistols and Buzzcocks reigned, and a new kind of sound was taking over.

Originally named Warsaw, Joy Division was a post-punk rock band that made waves with its debut album, Unknown Pleasures, and later continued their success with their sophomore album, Closer. Joy Division was made up of lead singer Ian Curtis, lead guitarist Bernard Sumner, bass player Peter Hook, and drummer Stephen Morris.

The band didn’t have the typical punk sound of the time. While others filled the spaces in between vocals with hard riffs on guitar, Joy Division usually kept it minimal and let the bass drive the melody. Although they were definitely not punk, several music critics, like Jon Savage, explained that the band was very inspired by the energy that punk music had at the time.

When the average person thinks of punk music, they usually think of the high energy, guitar-heavy music of The Ramones or the Sex Pistols. Joy Division was not this. Joy Division redefined the sound of music at the time and brought in a new genre: post-punk.

Division had modest success within the British music scene and eventually even planned to tour North America. Though it was not in the range of success that The Beatles or The Ramones had at the time, they still had their fair share of fans and a great following.

After Curtis’ tragic and very public suicide, the remaining band members formed a new group called New Order, a band that had much more commercial success than Joy Division did. While New Order may have been more popular, it’s Joy Division that I really want to emphasize. The band doesn’t seem to get enough credit or support, despite their famous Unknown Pleasures logo being used everywhere, including iPhone cases, posters, and t-shirts.

Unknown Pleasures brought the band great success, despite being a post-punk band in a time where punk reigned supreme. It’s considered their greatest album and sold many more copies than their sophomore album, Closer. Unknown Pleasures is what gave Joy Division their spot in British music history.

The album starts with “Disorder,” an upbeat, energetic song that very much mimics the punk sound of the time. It continues with “Day of the Lords,” which then slows down the album a little, giving it a more ambience. The album continues on a more low-key, loose beat and keeps up the Pink Floyd-esque vibe, while bringing in a touch of refined post-punk.

The album is great for an evening on your own, possibly taking some time to relax. It has one of the most ethereal and relaxing vibes I’ve ever encountered. If you’ve never given this album a listen, I would go beyond recommending it. Check it out at your local record store [the album sounds twice as great on vinyl!] or wherever music is sold.