The Legacy of Joy Division: From New Order to The Editors
Following a three year hiatus Manchester’s New Order are set to hit the festival circuit for their latest revival tour. Formed from the ashes of Joy Division, the group have since swum from the murky waters of atmospheric electronica to the safe shores of power pop.
Though not as relevant or as complete today as they were back in 1980, New Order’s appeal and influence still stretches across the decades. Despite their popularity New Order are unlikely to ever enjoy the artistic acclaim held by their earlier, shortlived incarnation; Joy Division. Formed in 1976 Joy Division were key to introducing the concept of post-punk to not just their native Manchester but the rest of the world too.
Stripped down, intense, melancholic and deeply atmospheric; the majority of Joy Division’s songs were completely unlike the main music genres of the time. Despite their brief existence –disbanding after leadsinger Ian Curtis’ suicide– Joy Division still prove influential today. The more distorted and doom laden delights of their two studio albums were pivotal in launching the goth scene of the early 1980s. For emerging acts like Bauhaus and The Cure, the dark lyrics and eerie instrumentals of Joy Division were massively important as they proved there was a sizeable audience for the sounds they were interested in making themselves.
It would though be wrong to label Joy Division as depression merchants with instruments. Much of their music was changed in scope, style and sound by producer Martin Hannett. In fact as great as Joy Division’s legacy is, much credit should also go to Hannett. His personality and production helped to highlight and enhance the group’s unique signature sound, particularly on standout track Love Will Tear Us Apart.
15 years following the death of Ian Curtis and the end of Joy Division, their previous manager, Tony Wilson sat watching Michael Mann’s heist film Heat, only to recognise the lyrics of one of the soundtrack’s songs. The song was Joy Division’s New Dawn Fades and the artist covering the track was Moby.
Since then the number of acts inspired by Joy Division has mushroomed. Interpol, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Editors and Mogwai have all made nods of differing sizes to the band which formed in Salford. And while these groups have been successful in their own right, it’s doubtful they’d be what they are today if Joy Division hadn’t come before them.
Now as the summer finally starts we can look ahead to the festival circuit and already hear the next crop of distorted, joyously grim indie acts scrambling to the surface. Most would argue that The Beatles were Britain’s most influential group. Some would point to The Smiths. The long-term smart money might be on Joy Division.