Album Reviews

Joy Division – The Best Of

(Rhino) UK release date: 24 March 2008

No doubt there are some of you out there shouting “cheap Control cash-in!” at the mention of a Best of Joy Division album so soon after the biopic hit our movie screens, but if that’s ‘all’ this package is, then Warner, the major label responsible for the OST, have no-one but themselves to blame.

If they’d put out a package that contained more than a paltry three tracks by the actual Joy Division while letting everyone from the cast band (the cast band! I ask you!) to The Killers have a go at others while filling in the gaps with Roxy Music and Dutch glam rockers no-one’s ever heard of, Rhino Records wouldn’t have needed to do it properly.

And yet ‘do it properly’ is an odd way of putting it, because here we have a CD subtitled Greatest Hits but which actually includes a handful of singles that never really bothered the charts much, a smattering of album tracks and a good few songs that could already be accused of being cash-in fillers sniffing at Curtis’s corpse the first time they saw the light of day. Incubation may well be a great piece of music, but the B-side of a flexi-single that was given away free does not constitute a ‘greatest hit’. It really doesn’t.

Is this a strength or a weakness? So ubiquitous is Joy Division’s legacy, so early on did Curtis’s survivors cotton on to the realisation that a quick buck could be made from dodgy unreleased material (oh, sorry, Still is a ‘compilation’ album, is it?), that it’s virtually impossible to even conceive that anyone who might want these songs won’t have them already. Are there really some indie kids out there who went to the cinema to see what all the fuss was about but who haven’t stumbled upon iTunes or an HMV shop since?

If anyone does fall into the latter category, the saving grace of this Best Of… is that it’s a lovingly put together compilation. Starting with Digital, the last song Curtis ever performed and continuing through most of the non-album singles and other favourite tracks, all the right songs are present and accounted for. Like She’s Lost Control, for instance, which was ludicrously absent from the OST.

CD2 might be the same eight Peel Session tracks previously released on two vinyl EPs and then a CD, but does that really matter? Okay, it’s tail-ended by live performances of Transmission and She’s Lost Control, recorded for Tony Wilson’s television show Something Else and available on a computer near you via YouTube with pictures as well as sound, but does any of that really matter?

This means that it’s just the interview, of Ian Curtis and Stephen Morris on BBC Radio One’s ‘Rock On’, that you might not have already. Unless you’ve got the Complete BBC Recordings album, of course. Or one of the countless bootleg versions in circulation.

Which brings us all back to a rather tricky reviewing dilemma. This really is the best of Joy Division. CD1’s songs are classics. CD2, with its live energy and its touches of the future dancing promised to us by the seeds of New Order, deserves to be heard again. The material may not be hard to get but just in case you’re too lazy to find it yourself, Rhino Records have done a beautiful job of sorting it out for you.

In the end, the question is simple: are there enough Joy Division albums in the world already? And the answer is no, of course not. You can never have enough Joy Division albums, reissues, unreleased material, bootlegs or other gumpf. You may have found this out the first time you took you needle to Exercise One, you may have seen the light with the Heart and Soul boxed set, or you may be discovering it here, now, for the first time.

No matter how many versions of Transmission you have, you will always, but always, need more. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t even be reading this review, would you? Ha – gotcha there, didn’t I?

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More on Joy Division
Spotlight: Closer – Joy Division’s pure and final masterpiece at 40
Joy Division – The Best Of
Various – Control OST