Has any artist been so thoroughly of their time yet simultaneously as timeless as Joy Division?
This is a band that exist in a kind of pre-Thatcher British monochrome. Four serious young men, seemingly never photographed far from concrete or red brick, all looking like they could do with a hot meal. And yet these four serious young men managed to wring entirely new sounds out of the classic set-up of guitar, bass, drums and vocals.
They started in 1976 as Warsaw and early recordings mirrored the punk sounds of the era. Yet once they changed their name and enlisted Martin Hannett as producer, Joy Division started to truly find their sound. It was driven by Stephen Morris' machine gun drumming which, when coupled with Peter Hook's remarkable bass-lines, provided a bedrock for the simple, atmospheric guitar lines of Bernard Sumner. They almost single-handedly invented post-punk and some might say goth rock. The main reason, though, for Joy Division's continued popularity is the dark poetry of troubled singer Ian Curtis. Their debut LP Unknown Pleasures ensured that the band garnered a fan base of equally serious young people who worshipped the singer.
Curtis's suffering ended in May 1980 when he committed suicide aged 23. This left their second album, Closer, as the band's posthumous work. A magnificent album from start to finish, it was a breathtakingly dark ride - given extra dark meaning by the passing of Curtis a few months before its release. What Joy Division might've gone on to achieve we'll never know. But the three remaining members went on to form New Order, a band whose importance in modern British musical history is hard to understate.