Released in 2008, this is an excellent compilation. But to get the main niggle out of the way once and for all: Joy Division was to release an EP and 2 LPs in the years they were together. The 2 albums fit one CD easily, so that coming up with a “Best Of” album which has about 50 minutes of music is always going to be objected to by many. In this particular case, the compilers made the blunder of including an instrumental track (“Incubation”) that is extraneous to the usual spark of the band, which was dependent on Curtis delivery both in terms of content and form.
There, that was the only negative thing that could be said about this anthology. Because the cuts that did make it to the CD are among Joy Division’s finest compositions, conveying in equal measure the palpitating rage and frustration that lay behind Curtis haunted glance, and the melodically ferocious approach of the band. Starting with “Digital” (one of the most delectable paranoid tirades I ever listened to) and ending with “Isolation”, the album is a perfect snapshot of what made the band so unique and (above all) so influential for generations to come.
The first three numbers in particular work like nothing else, as “Digital” is followed by “Disorder” and “Shadowplay”, two emblematic Joy Division songs. The album also includes the hit “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, “Heart & Soul”, the maniac “She’s Lost Control” and a song that makes me think of Costello’s “Radio, Radio”, only that the approach is obviously far removed. The song is called “Transmission”, and while Costello’s number deals with the way the industry dominates the airwaves, Curtis’ song takes a more personal way through and showcases the effect of what is played, not the role of the ones who decide what does get played.
The album includes a second disc that has some radio sessions and live appearances of the band. A short interview is appended at the end, too. This disc is serviceable at best, but fans are always going to relish having that material in an official way. In any case, “She’s Lost Control” and “Transmission” are as phenomenal as ever.
While some might criticize the actual length of the “best of” disc, what should matter (and be underlined the most) is how attractively something which many might find unattractive is communicated. The world is ugly. Truth is ugly. Yet (as Kendal Payne sang) “the truth contains much beauty”. As haunted as Ian’s lyrics are, there is a willingness to live evident in many of his compositions. He was to lose that battle, but I think he won the war. He lives eternally through his music. You can never have it both ways.
Would I recommend purchase of this compilation: Yes
Do I feel like digging deeper into their catalog after listening to it: Yes