Without being an original score (which in the most part the Control OST isn’t), an ‘original’ soundtrack is little more than a compilation album, at best a cinematic Under The Influence or Back To Mine/The Bus. Of the two comparisons, Control is probably more of the former – a trawl through the bands that influenced Joy Division and, taking it a step further, the bands they influenced in turn.
Of the eighteen tracks included here, only three are performed by Joy Division themselves – the iconic Love Will Tear Us Apart, which couldn’t have been excluded, Dead Souls and Atomsphere. A further two are present as covers – Shadowplay by The Killers and Transmission by (God help us) the cast band. There is nothing, original or recreated, by their proto-incarnation Warsaw.
The rest of the tracks comprise influences, contemporaries and those to whom the flame has since passed. Except it doesn’t quite go far enough in any of these directions. There is in fact only one post-Joy Division band represented – if you don’t count New Order of course – The Killers, performing the aforementioned Shadowplay.
But as they are far from the only ones to owe a huge debt to Ian Curtis, why not invite Editors or Interpol to the party, as well? Why not use Nine Inch Nails superb (and far more true to the original) cover of Dead Souls, if we’re dabbling in covers at all? One seems out of place; none or more would have been more logical; the same for the cast band. Give them everything or nothing.
The lack of newer material is combined with some pretty bizarre choices of older ones. Dutch prog-glamsters Supersister, anyone? No, don’t worry – I have no idea who they are and what they have to do with Joy Division either. Maybe all will be made clear in the film.
More worthy of inclusion are the haunting spoken word excepts that creep in between the tracks and three new instrumental pieces recorded by New Order for the movie: the opener Exit, a sparse and haunting piano intro, Hypnosis and the closing track, the again piano-heavy Get Out. If there’s more of this in the movie (and one would hope there is) it’s a shame not to present all of it here.
And whether it’s present in the movie or not, excluding She’s Lost Control seems like a ludicrous oversight. Is everyone going near this package expected to be such a Joy Division nerd that the film’s title doesn’t need explanation, as though we all understand it via some kind of doomy bass-laden osmosis? Isn’t it an integral part of Curtis’s struggles with epilepsy?
So what else do we have? The Buzzcocks and The Sex Pistols (both live), who convinced every teenage boy in the late 70s that you didn’t need huge musical talent before jumping up on stage. Iggy Pop and The Velvet Underground, because there’s much more of a musical legacy from American punk than its UK counterpart in Joy Division’s music. Kraftwerk because… well, if you don’t understand why, it’s unlikely you’ve got this far.
Glam rock from Bowie (twice), Roxy Music and Supersister presents everything Joy Division weren’t. And then there’s a bit of John Cooper Clarke thrown in for good measure.
You can argue all night about whether an OST should only be reviewed as an accompaniment to its movie, or whether it should stand on its own two feet. About whether the reviewer should have seen the movie before reviewing the album, so that the songs can be understood in context. At the end of the day, unless you’re only ever going to play this album simultaneously with the DVD, it has to have worth on its own.
Control doesn’t, really. In the end, it’s a bit of a mess. Not enough Joy Division, too many other songs that, out of context, don’t make enough sense, covers that surely won’t work on screen as well as the real versions would. There’s far too little of the haunting interludes provided by New Order, who in this context more than any other are Joy Division, in all but name.
Unknown Pleasures, Control and Still are all being released on CD and vinyl to coincide with the release of the movie at the beginning of October. Spend your money on them instead and experience the Control soundtrack as it should be experienced: as the background music to a film while you’re sitting in a cinema, not by putting it on your iPod.