It was raining in Paris when we got to Les Bains Douches.
I wonder what that means, "Les Bains Douches"? I also wonder
why the French bother to put the letter "s" on the end of
words, but don't ever bother to pronounce it! It seems
like such a waste of time...
At any rate, Les Bains Douches is a small dive, typical
of rock clubs the world over -- dirty floors, too much old
graffiti on the walls of the restroom. One difference is that,
this being France, the cheap beer is even crappier. The French
are not known for their beer, and there is a reason for this.
So i grab my $2 glass of crappy French beer and saunter to
the middle of the club to listen.
Joy Division go on late, no surprise there -- what rock club
in what country has ever run on time? They go on late, and
angry. Apparently they have not had a great day, and being
a punk band they are going to take it out on their instruments.
From the opening chords of Disorder they are sheer fury
and passion. Peter Hook thwaps away at his bass as if it had
personally killed his mother. Bernard Sumner's guitar wails
in agony as he thrashes it around, flinging power chords like
he is shaking dirt off of the instrument. Drummer Stephen Morris
plays frenetic and fast and furious.
And Ian Curtis, well, he is there and not there. The vocals
are sung as if he is a million miles away, and yet they are
infinitely personal. As if he is terribly distracted by something,
and at the same time confiding his deepest secret to you, his
new best buddy. There is immediacy and distance both intertwined
in his voice.
They played a great set too, tearing through fabulous versions
of Transmission and Shadowplay. All fury, energy,
screeching guitars, and distant yet immediate vocals.
And they played Love Will Tear Us Apart, as i knew they
would. But it's a different version. Instead of mourning loss,
this is the opening declaration of insanity. Dischordant keyboards
trill and squeal. Ian mutters as if he is angry. The whole song
is faster, as if played under the effects of delerium.
The second to the last song was a great version of These
Days-- the guitars powerchord their way along, and Ian almost
displays some joy as he sings "these days" over and over again....
A great show, but too short. Nine songs. Nine perfect and beautiful
songs, and then finished.....
Okay, so i wasn't really at this concert. Actually i was a
nine year old living in a small farming town in north central
Ohio when Joy Division played this show. But i wish that i
could have seen it. Joy Division are one of those rare bands
that did so little but did it so well. Perhaps it is because
they ended so soon -- they didn't have the time to grow old
and complacent and record Bridges To Babylon.
Instead, they left but a brief testament of passion and musical
I wish that i could have seen them. This disc does a pretty
good job of presenting their "sound" to me. It is so clear that
i can put my earphones on, close my eyes, and really feel
like i was there. This performance captures the energy that
the band obviously had in their live performances.
Their records might have spawned the entire "goth" phenomenon,
but live, they were obviously a punk band -- loud, fast, furious,
and without a care in the world. They poured their souls into
this performance. Why -- were they extra angry that day? Or
were they so happy that it spilled over into their music and
made them play what must have been the show of their lives?
I guess i'll never know. Nor does it really matter, all that
matters is that it was a fabulous concert, and this is a really
nice recording of it.
This is actually the second "bootleg" of Joy Division that
Factory Records has released in the past few years. The first
disc, Preston shows a brilliant band being confronted
by poor sound in a crappy venue. There they are weary with frustration.
Here, the venue was great, and due to a radio broadcast thankfully
preserved these long years, we have a crystalline soundboard
recording of the show.
In order to fill up the CD, there are six tracks taken from
a later performance in Holland. That recording is not so clear.
In fact, it sounds as if taken from a high generation cassette
recording. The sound is a little on the tinny side, and there
is some tape hiss that just could not be removed. The overall
effect of this second recording is that Joy Division are made
to sound like a heavy metal band.
That's a shame, because that Holland show sounded brilliant.
The second track is a long, drawn out version of Atrocity
Exhibition. The tinny tape hiss-filled recording on the
guitars reminds me of the time that i saw The
Fire Show in concert -- there is that level of paranoia
present in the music. Of course, that has always been Joy Division's
creepiest song in my opinion. I mean look at the name, and then
consider that Ian Curtis repeats "this is the way we step inside"
over and over in the song. Ewww....
But Joy Division provide the necessary catharsis with the see-sawing
guitars and plodding rhythm of Digital. It is a great
moment of energy, and it infects the crowd. In the break before
Joy Division jump into Leaders Of Men, you hear the crowd
chanting and screaming. It sounds like people were having a
I think it's great that Factory Records have given us this
snapshot of a wonderful band playing two good shows. Malimus,
on the other hand finds it creepy. "It's just like Tupac," he
said, when i explained what this CD was. I guess so. I mean,
on the one hand it's awesome to have these recordings. On the
other hand, it does seem like capitalizing on the death of Ian
Curtis. Sure, he's been dead a long time now, but would these
recordings, however brilliant, have been released now if he
were a doddering and bitter old fool? I dunno.
Another thing that struck me while listening to this CD: it
is fairly obvious that Joy Division were an influence on one
of my current favorites, The
Dismemeberment Plan. The way that keyboards are used, especialy
the high pitched "laser shot" sounds on Love Will Tear Us
Apart seems very like the off-key keyboard sounds that The
Plan use to great effect in their live
On the whole, i heartily endorse this CD. It's a good starting
point for people unfamiliar Joy Division. And for true fans,
these recordings are a must.