With a recorded legacy once founded almost exclusively on two studio albums, the last couple of years has seen the basis of Joy Division's stature as one of rock and roll's greatest bands shift to a series of live releases. The latest, Les Bains Douches
, is highlighted by a nine song set recorded at the Parisian venue that lends the album its name and was, remarkably, broadcast over French radio, an odd pairing of a highly uncommercial group and a commercial medium. Joy Division's dull metallic scrape is captured in near perfect fidelity, and their component parts make for a most disturbing manner of chanson
. Stephen Morris' drums are frequently a bar behind the beata spurious sound of odd time signaturesbefore the floor toms race ahead to join with a rumble of guitar and bass, a kind of tribal entrance music for singer Ian Curtis. Curtis sings as if he scarcely occupied a place in the corporal world, and yet on songs like "Shadowplay" and "Transmission" there is a physical and directive quality to his voice, as if it was being leveled at the listener upon having come back from somewhere else. He is both seer and interloper on "Love Will Tear Us Apart," the most arch and abrasive of response songs; Captain and Tennille had their "Love Will Keep Us Together" and, over three minutes, Curtis proves that, no, it will not.
The remainder of Les Bains Douches
consists of tracks culled from two other Joy Division shows, one from Amsterdam and another from Eindhoven. As for the Paris performance, the concept of a Joy Division radio broadcast is still a difficult one, as I cannot imagine any kingdom, province, or outlying territory in hell where "Build Me Up Buttercup" is followed by "Atrocity Exhibition" over the FM wire. Accordingly, the members of Joy Division proved themselves perhaps no more suited to their own group. Ian Curtis hung himself five months after appearing at Bains Douches, and the survivors of Joy Division went on to form New Order, everybody's favorite guitar dance band of the '80s, a retreat as desperate and natural as any that Joy Division seem to inspire.
Copyright 2004 Goldmine / Krause Publications . Reprinted with permission.
Personnel: Ian Curtis (v), Bernard Albrecht (g), Peter Hook (b), Stephen Morris (d)