Ian Curtis & Joy Division

It's been 30 years since Joy Division hit the Manchester music scene, but with two movies and a number of reissues being released, they are more alive today than ever. This week on the show Jim and Greg will discuss the music and the myth of Ian Curtis and Joy Division.

This Week on Sound Opinions: The Legacy of Joy Division
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Music News

Jim and Greg begin the show by discussing two of the oddest news stories to pop up in a while. And both speak to people's paranoia about music "ownership." The first news item involves record industry enemy #1: 18-month old Holden Lenz from rural Pennsylvania. His parents uploaded his free-form dance performance to YouTube to share with friends and family, but unfortunately the song Baby Lenz was dancing to is none other than Prince's 1984 copyrighted classic "Let’s Go Crazy." In the past couple of years Prince has made it clear that he doesn't support anyone enjoying his songs for free -- whether it's an illegal downloader or a bouncing baby boy. So, Universal Music, Prince's label has demanded the content be removed from YouTube, and now there's flurry of legal activity from both parties. Jim and Greg are simply baffled.

The other bit of news that caught our hosts' eyes is a press release put out by the heavy-metal band W.A.S.P. If you remember W.A.S.P. at all, you remember them from their role in Tipper Gore's PMRC campaign against explicit music. But, more likely you have no idea who W.A.S.P. is and have no interest in recording their live music to make a profit. Well, the band isn't taking any chances and have notified fans that they will not only confiscate digital cameras and video recorders, but also cell phones with cameras. So, with no lighters, and no cell phones, how's a fan supposed to salute a great performance?

Joy Division

In 1977  Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris formed the band Joy Division in Manchester, England. Now 30 years later, the music and the legend are as important as ever. Acclaimed video director and rock photographer Anton Corbijn just released his Joy Division feature film, Control. In addition, a number of albums and compilations are being reissued and a documentary is in the works. Jim and Greg took this opportunity to delve into the band's music and story.

So, why all the interest in a British band that lasted only three years and never even toured the States? Jim explains that Joy Division left a lasting musical influence that you can hear in dance-punk fusion bands like Interpol and LCD Soundsystem, as well as mainstream rock acts like The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins and U2. Also, because front man Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980, just one month prior to the release of "Love Will Tear Us Apart," the band's most successful single, the idea of Curtis and the band became almost as important as the music itself. The band was adopted by Goth youths and Curtis became romanticized as a tortured genius. Unfortunately while that propelled the band's name, it overshadowed what they were really about according to Jim and Greg.

The mythology surrounding Curtis' death isn't the only thing that misrepresents Joy Division. Greg explains that the band's studio albums only showcase one side of the group's music. Producer Martin Hannett crafted the sound to enhance the band's dark, twisted image. On 1978's Unknown Pleasures and 1980's Closer, the songs were sparse and claustrophobic. But, as you can hear in live tracks like "Transmission," Joy Division was an aggressive, energetic band in concert. Their singles also present a more upbeat, dance-oriented sound. To get a full perspective on Joy Division, Greg recommends checking out the Closer reissue, as well as Substance, a collection of singles.

Sino Café Tacuba


The first album Jim and Greg discuss this week is Sino by Café Tacuba. This is the sixth album from the band widely thought to be the inventors of "Rock En Español." Café Tacuba is known for melding many musical influences, making them truly progressive rockers. In fact, Jim hears a lot of British prog-rock influence in the songs. He found it funny and insightful, but wishes there was more grit in the recording. Despite this, he gives Sino a Buy It. Greg is happy to hear this, as he is a long-standing Tacuba fan. He describes these musicians as true innovators, despite claims that they've gone "too mainstream" on this album. The songs are experimental, without sacrificing pop elements. Greg also gives Sino a Buy It.

The Redwalls The Redwalls

The Redwalls

Next up is The Redwalls' self-titled album. The band has a quintessential rock and roll story: Band covers Beatles, Band gets signed to a major, Band tours the world, Band burns out. But, after being dropped by Capitol Records for insufficient sales, they didn't become disillusioned enough to scrap the dream. The Chicago natives packed up to record with Swedish producer Toré Johanssen, who has worked with Franz Ferdinand and The Cardigans. Greg thinks they outdid themselves with this effort. He explains that they stepped it up a notch lyrically, and he loves what Johanssen did with the arrangements. Jim agrees that the sound has been sharpened, and hears a more mature side of the men. Despite the fact that they aren't many years out, they can look back at their teens with some wisdom and humor. That gives The Redwalls a double Buy It.

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