Episode 127: Because The Fence Says there Must Be Order

Matt and Ryan listen to and discuss Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures.”

Matt and Ryan listen to and discuss Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures.


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6 Comments on “Episode 127: Because The Fence Says there Must Be Order”

  1. Chris Morgan #

    Ah, how fortuitous, what we me having been listening to Joy Division a whole bunch the last few weeks. I know “listening to a lot of Joy Division” is not necessarily something that many would deem “enjoyable” or “mentally sensible” but it is what it is.

    Admittedly, I too feel like I can’t point out each song as individuals, although that’s more on a “name the song title” basis. Even with my Pavement records I have listened to a million times over, sometimes I can’t place a song’s name, despite the fact that I know the records by memory in terms of song. This is probably more true with a band like Joy Division, though.

    I also feel like its worth mentioning that three of their biggest songs were all released as singles and didn’t appear on either of Joy Divison’s albums. I speak, of course, of “Transmission,” “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” and “Atmosphere.” Then there’s “Ceremony” of course, the Joy Division/New Order song which exists as a Joy Division song in bootlegs and poorly records versions and what have you.

    Additionally, aside from the music, I feel like, as unpleasant as it is, part of what makes Joy Division remain relevant and makes them stand out from the pack is the plight of Ian Curtis. Morbidity sells records and all that. Ian Curtis becomes a sort of rock martyr in a sense, and, fittingly, an icon in a way. That’s always strange, and disconcerting to me. What would Joy Division be otherwise? Would they just be what New Order was?

    In the end, Unknown Pleasures is a complex record to digest, and the aura and mystique of the band follows suit, I suppose.


  2. Josie M. #

    More than any other band or artist you’ve discussed so far, Joy Division was an Important Band to me as a teenager. And I think there were several points Ryan really gets at why it hooked me so strongly in high school. The title point is one of it – high school is the point at which the vicious arbitrariness of authority really becomes most clear, especially if (like I was) you’re attending an underresourced, largely non-white school in a state with an especially punitive testing regime. Even more so when that school was being torn down and rebuilt while you were there, such that your walks to class were around literal piles of rubble and 1950s buildings sealed in plastic for asbestos removal. But you have to walk in line. You have to follow the routes and schedules planned out for you, no matter how absurd or counterproductive. The illusion of bureaucratic order must be maintained at all costs. And then add to that my queerness, and my veritable alphabet soup of mental illness diagnoses, all of which made me feel as alienated from myself as from everyone else, and it’s no wonder I felt this music so deeply. From there, I went pretty straight into the more pretentious side of emo (like Thursday, who have a song called “Ian Curtis” that in retrospect seems to use his suicide in poor taste), as well as to Interpol, the first of the many, many hipster 2000s bands to sound kind of like Joy Division.

    And as it happens, I don’t have any of their albums on vinyl, I do have their Heart & Soul retrospective box set on CD. However, this means that I’m actually used to hearing Unknown Pleasures between contemporaneous singles and tracks originally released on the compilation Still in 1981. So listening to just the album is a little weirder to me than it really should be. I do have a couple of New Order albums on vinyl though, and I actually discovered Joy Division kind of backwards through New Order. And I think it’s interesting that Ryan initally misidentified Power Corruption and Lies as the first New Order album – because it’s their second under that name, but really the first one to sound more like mainstreamish 1980s dance music than like Joy Division.


  3. Josie M. #

    Also, on a much lighter and more weirdly postmodern note related to the design stuff (and I do feel like this episode was as much about graphic designer Peter Saville as it was about Joy Division), apparently Louis Tomlinson of the Simon Cowell-arranged boy band One Direction – whom I hope you’ll eventually podcast about – has been photographed and worn at least 5 different Joy Division shirts, including 2 with the pulsar pattern and one with the “Love Will Tear As Apart” single artwork on it (which I also own.)

    I could write a lot more about Saville, insofar as graphic design -unlike music- is something I actually have some formal training in. But maybe let’s save that for later.


  4. Stokes OTI Staff #

    I get the resonance with the Doors. But the band that I’m surprised didn’t come up in this conversation is The Smiths. I was trying to think of a pithy way to describe the relationship between them while I was doing the dishes:

    Basically, The Smiths are what you get if you take the sonic palette of Joy Division, and use it to make actual music. Which is another way of saying that The Smiths made songs that sound like what sadness feels like, and Joy Division made songs that sound like what depression feels like. That’s the difference right there.


  5. fenzel OTI Staff #

    Hey guys – I’m going to put in an order for some pizza and wings. Who wants in?

    -The Fenz


    • Stokes OTI Staff #

      Ugh, do we have to?


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