Unknown Pleasures – Joy Division
Behind any quality album is a dedicated producer who works with artists to make the sounds in their heads come to life. Some producers go above and beyond in their work to define a group’s sound — George Martin with the Beatles or Nigel Godrich with Radiohead. But few producers can claim to be as important to a band as Martin Hannett to Joy Division’s debut album Unknown Pleasures.
Hannett’s cavernous and sparse production is in full force throughout each of the LP’s 10 songs. Joy Division disliked many of the changes made by Hannett, arguing he destroyed their live and off-the-cuff sound.
Hannett convinced the group otherwise, and they released the album. Initial sales were low, but its success was relatively large enough for independent labels to gain confidence and become willing to take further artistic risks with up-and-comers, helping spark the modern indie movement.
The LP is under 40 minutes, but its slow, crawling pace makes every theatrical — yet instinctual — moment register. A first listen to this album sounds almost alien to the most dedicated of listeners, but its hypnotic power can’t be ignored. Even the album’s cover, which features an image of radio waves from pulsar CP 1919 going nova, continues to resonate with fans.
Just a year after its release, lead singer and lyricist Ian Curtis died by suicide. His band members abandoned Joy Division and started the group New Order, but Joy Division’s haunting sound lingered and proved to be one of the most important influences on modern music.
Tracks to listen to: “Disorder,” “Day of the Lords,” “She’s Lost Control”
LiLiPUT – LiLiPUT
Known only by the most knowledgeable of music nerds, LiLiPUT is just a speck on the post-punk map compared to Joy Division. The Swiss, female, post-punk group flew under the radar during its existence in the late 1970s and early ’80s, but this compilation album, released in 1993, brought new listeners to its blend of rock.
LiLiPUT, also known as Kleenex in countries with looser copyright laws, features all of the music the group ever released. For years, the group has been touted as a lost gem within their genre, in part because of how surprising their music is upon first listen. With subjects such as shopping at grocery stores or going on casual dates, it’s possible new listeners might wonder why anyone bothered to reissue this album. But with an album as engaging as LiLiPUT’s, the decision is justifiable.
Beyond their message, most of their songs dissolve to chaos. Random instruments pop up in the background, such as the banging of pots and the random chime of a triangle. Occasionally, some unexpected instruments take front stage. This is especially noticeable on “Hitch-Hike,” which features a schizophrenically scattered saxophone. Even grunts and bird calls make an appearance during rambling, emotionless lectures. Listening to this album is a harsh, yet important, reminder of how malleable rock music can be.
Tracks to listen to: “Nighttoad,” “Beri-Beri,” “Ain’t You”