Don't Own Any Joy Division? Change it!

It goes without saying that Joy Division have been one of the most influential British band of all time; their distant and gripping experimental rock has directly influenced groups like Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Interpol and further through The Cure and so on. The story of the Manchester Factory Records scene that they were a central player in is one that any music fan should tell their children like a cutting fairy tale.

As 'Control', Anton Corbijn's biopic hits the cinemas the re-release of the band's entire back catalogue can hardly be said to be a sly one; teens with Joy Division tshirts can still be spotted in the tshirt everyday but it's always necessary to remind those to whom the band have become merely a fashionable name just why they were so important.

The live albums are some of the most interesting works, capturing the unique spirit of the band's shows; on 'Live At Factory Manchester' you can almost imagine Ian Curtis' limbs flailing wildly in your mind's eye as you hear the shooting sounds of 'Insight', like an irrepressible punk creature. The sound is of course blissfully raw, it's called retro and these days bands strive for it, there's also a comfortingly genuine murmur of people chatting in the background, hopefully they're thoroughly ashamed of not paying the band their full attention now. 'She's Lost Control' sounds crisp and fresh even to modern ears during this live recording, while the record version on the seminal, 'Unknown Pleasures' album is a stunning juxtaposition of echoing, stoic vocals and crashing, hissing, lithe percussion. In the climactic, 'Shadowplay's, fierce guitarwork it's hard not to see Joy Division as a truly forward thinking and inspirational group with a rabid passion that even sounds like it's consuming Curtis in each performance. The sound quality on the live recordings is, of course, not great, infact during, 'Transmission' the shuddering percussion begins to crack up like a bad satellite feed, but it's all about the nostalgia with live works, and The Factory show probably rates the highest for that, containing the greatest volume of work.

ULU's crowd are more audibly excited than those at The Factory with plenty of squeals as the band come onstage and an altogether slightly murkier quality, although I'm sure no one would complain! The last live disc is a High Wycombe show containing a wealth of material from, 'Still, Curtis' vocals have a far greater punk expedient on these early recordings; 'The Sound Of Music' opens the disc with a raucous howl, although rest assured that the soundcheck, included on this CD is even more jagged. The inclusion of soundchecks on an album where the finished live performances are included seems a little unnecessary, but rather like those who admire artists' sketches as a means to understand their masterpieces, this should be a bonus for the fans.

If the beats don't permeate your soul and the synths don't wash you away in a freezing wave by the end of each album then you can barely call yourself alive. Yes, you can only be a true legend after you're dead, but Joy Division's music was innovative and engrossing even before their tale took a tragic twist.

The albums, 'Still', 'Closer' and, 'Unknown Pleasures' as reissues must stand on their own and should be given a once over by any music fan, especially before you judge 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' as the epitome of the group's work, or before you form a band. Listening to Joy Division's entire back catalogue is a pretty emotionally exhausting experience and one that's perhaps best avoided unless you're a hardcore fan, but in the days of artists like Editors and Interpol, it's rather like sampling pure high culture as opposed to a popularised derivative.