Joy Division: Atmosphere, Transmission, Love Will Tear Us Apart – Singles AnalysisJoy Division

Atmosphere / Transmission /  Love Will Tear Us Apart

12-inch vinyl


Reissued Factory classics from Joy Division in the form of 3 non-album singles.  { Sold-out at most outlets now…} Not just to mark the anniversary of what will always have an anniversary, but more of a reminder of the unstoppable importance of what was arguably less a band and more a way forward through time. Reviewed here, in detail, by one of our younger writers  Ryan Walker who seems as captivated as ‘we’ were forty years ago…

We have to dream as big as possible. We are, after all, burdened to be born as human beings in a small world and nothing more than ants under a magnifying glass. Therefore, let’s dream with and of, Joy Division. They shaped Manchester. They shaped the future.

They have re-released their long out of print string of singles; the ones not featured on the debut, Unknown Pleasures, or Closer. Yet, as well as re-introducing Closer into earth’s orbit this year, and Unknown Pleasures a few years back to coincide with its birthday, the singles – Atmosphere; Transmission and Love Will Tear Us Apart, plus their B-sides– simply being together; because they’re not on any album, is a charmingly conceptual idea.

The singles themselves are the outlaws of the art form; a template for the antics of fussy buggery which lasted with New Order to deliberately, definitely, not select singles for albums in an act of artistic intent, with no place on a record composing on the standard 10-12 tunes. But specially selected, as somehow significant and unbelonging, as unknown to everything else except unto themselves. As anomalies alongside everything else, but as specially selected, and separated from the albums, they deserve their individual appraisal, by academics or artists.

A sacred place at a distance, for a life among the rest, just wouldn’t be right. The notion that someone, somewhere, certified them as some artistic standard of an anomaly that wouldn’t quite fit when embedded in the ethereal beauty of the rest of it. Each piece has been re-pressed on 180-gram vinyl in sleeves, the superiority of Saville’s vision still stands. Always a statement of artistic intent, a perfect vessel within which these wondrous worlds are carried. Across seas and sands. Times and spaces. Hannett’s production, still ahead of its time, all these years later, manages to push for something unheard of to everyone except him.

By the time you read this, if you should, the three singles have already been released. But I feel, and I think, too much, all of the time, that despite the 17 July 40th anniversary of  Closer having been and gone, a wonderfully re-imagined transparent heavyweight vinyl, these reissued songs deserve some kind of contemporary analysis and evaluatioon of their presence all these decades later.

Albums are marathons; they are mammoths, they are monoliths – they can be prisons as well as prisms, blessings as well as curses. Singles are something else. Especially when not even lifted from the main albums in the first place. Implying that there’s a distinction to be drawn between one work and another. A statement. Joy Division mastered both. Guiding us through doors of time and space, dimensions of imaginary worlds built by bass and drums, etching lines into the intimate realms of pleasure explored, oscillating between punk, post punk, pop, goth, techno, rock, electronica– and enabling a constant seam to be seen, amalgamations of each improvised idea, standing up and sitting down at different times, but all the while stitching both sides of the modern world together from the studio booth or the rehearsal room floor. Their side and our side; this side and that side; inside and outside: A-side and B-side.

Atmosphere 12” – A: ‘Atmosphere’/ B: ‘She’s Lost Control’ –

Atmosphere still buzzes and hums with the majesty it always did – like walking through a daydream; in a field; slowly pulsating strobes; delicately descending snowflakes and ashes from the same stretch of empty, impressive, ominous expanse. Its electronic euphoria, a burst of something hallucinogenic and holographic, timelessly chiming on the edge of some fantastical landform. A procession takes place, one life altruistically exchanged for everything that comes after.

Let’s not forget the Voice. Curtis’ call from the dark still captivates the brain. Note the uncomfortable, too clever for 23, and cursed to carry such intellect and emotion in one state of mind. The bass does what Joy Division’s bass lines do – they dazzle you; they kick you in the teeth, they provide the essential backbone to the counteracting with Sumner’s Siberian synths, glistening and misty; but elsewhere are sharp and provide walls for Hooky’s warm bass to bounce off. Like instruments fighting to the death in the same arena, on the same beach, at the same edge.

She’s Lost Control, as we know, is a dark, dystopian spray of drums and futuristic, a musical design that seems to defy gravity breaks and bursts and rebuilds itself with every intense spasm of detail. Here, relentlessly interconnecting one end of one takes to the point of another. Snapping and attracting everything which can be magnetized to it. The bass guitar is ripped up high; swaggering on the edge of outer space. Morris’s drums are feverish and endless, spacious but busy; crisp, clean, clear, and uncluttered machinations like clockwork gently chugging away, always providing enough rhythmic backbone to seize hold of the spaces in their allured, psychedelic state of play and unwilling to let go.

A confirmation that it is a piece of art for every occasion; every moment, each minute in every history, the start, the middle, the end: the introduction, the intervention, the resolution of events as they twist and unfurl. I find it’s important to insert the live footage from She’s Lost Control. It really captivates that animalistic energy often displayed by Joy Division at their most Northern. Their most unknown. Here, away from the studio decorations, naked and untamed, and the sophisticated, bourgeoisie club. But just let the song breathe and let the dead fly dance. The lost art of losing control has never been asserted with such confidence and charisma as Curtis is both let lose from his shoes, unpinned from his skin, yet nailed to a cross only he can surely see approaching from the distance.

Transmission 12” – A: ‘Transmission’ / B: ‘Novelty’ – 

Transmission was, and still is, a kinetic moment in modern times, paranoid and wired. The bass blasts forth like bulldozers into post-war Brutalist buildings. The song is ticking into history; tripping into a new realm of melody and magic; a vortex of weirdness and wonders, bleeps and blips fizzle delicately, buildings crumble to dust, thumping and thudding, eruptive and penetrating with its bulletproof, unstoppable groove. It’s a photograph of a landscape. And with each flash, we are briefly blinded and wake up days later, the chorus, on the radio, still emitting some kind of noise, into the void.

It possesses the rapid, triggering ticks of drums Joy Division is renowned for, but it should still be celebrated as containing the punch and untouchable primal punk energy that inspired the lads to pick up their instruments in the first place. The bass is a typical earworm; it never really changes shape, but keeps things in place, on point, punctual and precise, driven and allowing further dynamics to expand with further space to be explored. It keeps us coming back for more, and like a lot of the best Joy Division songs; simplicity, is often the key, to its charm and catch of creative zenith.

As testified by the chorus; and the guitar line itself; the simplicity in things which change shape and adjust shades and introduce hues in their unique ways. Too subtle to take note of the first time around, but during later listens; the mastery of what’s being carried is so amazingly simple; its frankly outstandingly complex. Because of Tony Wilson’s program, and more specifically, his vision, a very literal showing us of Something Else, on 15 September 1979, we now come to identify the performance of Transmission, be it gestures – the microphone stand being moved to the left-hand side of the stage, the low Rickenbacker bass, the deflated Curtis exorcising himself before thousands: the moment when The Music turned into something more extreme and erudite and ethereal and angular than what had crashed onto the stage before them in infantile ways. yet still retaining that aggression. A portal to all things, post the Pistols.

So one could say, Joy Division was the quintessential singles band. Prolific and particular, in that the nature of each album risked being disturbed by the novelty of something that would interrupt the flow. Like reading a particularly revelatory novel about oneself then coming across an advert for the audiobook inside. The idea of the single sells you something cheap. The actuality of the single, according to how Joy Division, to how Saville, to how Hannett operates, is to give them a purpose as works out art. Like the albums are sinful to shuffle. Like the singles can lure people in, can latch onto their desires, and destroy them from the inside out, or, from the outside in, and the group succeeds in exposing this idea to sublime standards of delivery, art, and angst.

Love Will Tear Us Apart 12” – A: ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ / B: ‘These Days’ –  

Love will not just tear you apart. It will throw you to the floor, kick you in the ribs, spit in your face, and laugh about it. What is the fucking point? There isn’t one. And never has been. We should have listened. But we didn’t. And we lost one. It cascades into motion with a fierce, unhinged bass chord, then emits that melody we know so well. Never changing, but also, always different. The drums crash and the guitar shatter and the synth ascend to levels surely located above the clouds and the voice of a troubled Mancunion son, loaded with anecdotes and details from a time before his own and an era after ours, spilling such poeticisms is somehow eulogized in what has commonly come to be referred to as the perfect pop song. A perfect single. But sharp on both sides, melodically exemplary and ideologically sordid. But the kids still dance.

Sinatra croons as he cracks apart, his cigarette still lit, his baritone afloat, and fluttering above the skyline. Jim Morrison or Iggy’s Idiot seems to call upon tomorrow to get the job done. There’s something heavy sat on his chest which forces him to stand and sing and smoke in a particular way. Now captivated right here. In our hands. Imploding in our hearts. One played at birthdays and weddings, funerals, and nightclubs. It transcends all boundaries, its sentiment underpinning the lives of so many, so often, and we’re almost blind in terms of the raw ferocity of its fragile origins. And like that timeless, classic video seems to start and end with the door swinging open and shut with the engraving of Ian Curtis’ name upon it, holding high that white teardrop vox, so too, can we draw a metaphorical, even metaphysical line between their world and ours, the past, and the future, torn apart, in the name of love.

Severely damaged by love, Ian Curtis holds hands with his future and it shudders in his eyes, with shame. Something is contained, something is constrained, something is carried, something is unleashed, liberated, and brightly shining through to the other side. These tunes; that band; hold our hands; and take us there; to wherever, whenever, that side is. These rare singles, now available, to play before you, should be both hung in galleries, and heard with the intimacy of a whisper. Joy Division was, and always will be a punk rock band. Punk at heart. Post-punk in history. Fuck off at heart. I’m Fucked in history.  Extreme music indeed.

We have the cruel beauty of hindsight, to unlock the lyrics, to look back at the times which gave birth to so much we have to thank for. And now, we can continue to revisit, as tourists in our own minds, in our own rooms, those Distinct things of beauty to soundtrack the nooses and knots we often find ourselves falling through, tested on the edge, entangled in a web of complexities, a vicious net of elaborate plans and procedures when routine bites so hard there’s a fat fucking chunk of ours stomachs end up missing. Our tired minds are tightened in a vice until they explode. Our weary way of life, all burdened with worried hearts whereby martyrs are crowned with halos and appointed the new saints, are wrapped in layers of elastic bands or lowered into a nest of barbed wire until they split and leak. Thanks, St. Anthony.

So here’s to Joy Division, the saints, and the singles they surely carved from the remains of some descended, decadent star. To shine and articulate those poetic anecdotes and made it ok for punk to cry, to think, to read, to wear one’s heart on one sleeve, and the soul on the other. Decades before, the new dawn started to fade.


Ryan Walker is a writer from Bolton. His archive can be found online here.



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