This article is beautifully written but, IMHO, the actual 10 tunes, and their order, are way off beam. The ten best Joy Division tracks and no She’s Lost Control? Hmmmmm. Anyway, here’s the top three.
3. “Passover” (from Closer, 1980)
An often overlooked track, “Passover” is Joy Division at their most introspective, both lyrically and musically. Hook and Morris provide a low, discordant rumble for the song’s ethereal movement, with Sumner’s guitar randomly puncturing the fog, while Curtis delivers lines more devotional than mournful, trading abbreviation for the space between the edges of his voice and the furthest echo from the instruments.
For this song, Curtis briefly directs the lyrical focus away from the abstract sentiments of his depression to the far more specific reality that was the doubt and apprehension concerning the potential impact of the band’s music. Curtis’ vulnerability is cast under a new shadow on “Passover,” and in the track he questions perceptions of himself, not generated from his already existing dark consciousness but from the desire for “sanctuary from these feverish smiles.” Discussion of Joy Division’s thematic concern with the loss of innocence and youth is a well-worn path, but here those themes take on an almost meta quality, with the band’s despairing lyrics finding their root in the tangible context of their growing fame and the inadvertent effects of that fame on Curtis.
2. “Transmission” (from Substance, 1988)
Originally released in 1979, “Transmission” highlights Joy Division’s singular type of frenetic pop, a style at least partially influenced by Curtis’ struggles with epilepsy. While the disease’s direct impact on both Curtis’ lyrics and the band’s at times erratic melodies will never be fully known, songs like “Transmission” suggest that Joy Division were just as interested in songs that would allow for performance as well as playability. Hook’s distinctive bass threads a line just as rhythmically crucial to the song’s movement as Morris’s punctuated drumming. Curtis delivers lines like, “The things that we’ve learnt are no longer enough,” with an unbridled fervor, his voice edging right up against its limits, while the music comes to an electronic, rhythmic boil. Another Joy Division song that lends itself to compositional decay, every instrument, including the vocals, unravels from its coldly detached beginnings into a syncopated frenzy that, in spite of the song’s grimly dystopian lyrics, lends itself to the dance floor.
1. “Dead Souls” (from Substance, 1988)
Released in 1980 as the B-side to “Atmosphere,” “Dead Souls” begins with Morris’ drums rolling out a beat before the briefly disjointed guitar work of Sumner unknots into the anthemic riff that gives the otherwise unrelenting melancholy of this song its only hint of color. In the aftermath of Curtis’ suicide, “Dead Souls” has acquired a certain level of notoriety due to the unfortunate relevance of its lyrics, which directly confront the cruel realities of psychosis with a jarring vulnerability. Given the band had already established an inclination for creating songs both fragile and strangely powerful in their despondency, “Dead Souls” remains a singular track even now, with Curtis imploring his unnamed audience with the opening line, “Someone take these dreams away,” with a chilling authenticity. Equally unsettling is the distinctive crescendo of Hook, Sumner, and Morris playing yet again at the cusp of derailment, only stopping to let the listener peer with them over the edge and into the waiting void.