Monday, August 31, 2015

There Is No Joy Division In Muddville

I somehow managed to go my entire life without hearing a note from Joy Division other than the hit "Love Will Tear Us Apart," which I can just about take. But I acquired a collection this weekend that included among other things, three Joy Division records. I decided to listen to "Unknown Pleasures," to see what the fuss was all about.

It is a rare moment when I actually say out loud to no one, "This is horrible!"

Rather than spew my reasons, because that's really not what this is about, I was more curious about any of you having the same experience of somehow avoiding an artist almost completely and then finally giving in, only to be shocked by what you heard.

I guess it could go either way, but I'd rather the disappointments.

For the record, I did not expect to hear Rickenbacker 12-strings and three part harmonies. I sorta knew what I was in for. Sorta. I just didn't think it would be so painful.


Anonymous said...

Oh my. I loooooove Joy Division. Oh well....
Sorta in the ballpark of your query is my Dylan epiphany, but it goes squarely into the positive revelation column rather than the disappointment one. For years, I knew BD was a highly-esteemed songwriter blah blah blah but my take was that he was a lousy singer, pretentious writer and must be making a mint off his Bob Dylan Kool-Aid factory. I acknowledged that other people did fine with his songs. I even saw him live, albeit it was because he was touring with Tom Petty and I was there for TP. Anyway, circa 1988, I'm visiting my bro, who is not at home but has Biograph. In perusing the song titles, I realize I know more of the song titles than I'd've suspected. I put in one of the discs, to this remove, I don't remember which song it was, but I accidentally selected the wrong track and was absolutely gobsmacked by my accidental selection. It may've been Masters Of War. Anyway, I explored further, was intrigued, and shortly thereafter got a girlfriend who turned out to be a Dylan fanatic so had almost all the albums, allowing me to really dive in deep. And I did an absolute about-face re Zimmy. I could probably write a thesis about him being one of the greatest voices of the rock era, and he surely doesn't need me to defend his lyrics. The release of those Velvet Underground outtakes CDs in the 80s was a similar thing, in that I heard those and liked them much much more than what I'd known of the Velvets until then, so subsequently reapproached them with eyes newly opened and appreciative (big fan now).
I honestly can't think of a story in line with your preferred query (big disappointment after long hold-off), but it's 6 am out here and I'm not running on all cylinders yet.
C in California

William Repsher said...

I remember a friend turning me onto New Order in the mid-80s, and thinking, wow, cool, fun British electro-pop. So the next logical step was to check out Joy Division ... and have a similar reaction to yours, if not as potent. I still maintain that "Love Will Keep Us Together" is a better song than "Love Will Tear Us Apart." (Although love did, indeed, tear apart the Captain and Tennille a few years ago.)

Not to belabor the point ... but Richard Hell & the Voidoids! See previous rant.

While I like plenty of Brian Eno tracks where he's doing an actual song, the "ambient" albums from the late 70's ... I still just don't get. I get what he was doing, but would I listen to it again? No. Ditto Life in the Bush of Ghosts with David Byrne. I get that it was groundbreaking ... but I just can't be bothered to listen.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I had two Joy Division albums in the '80's I've made no attempt to replace. Nor do I remember anything about them except "Love Will Tear Us Apart".
I think I'm still avoiding most of the artists that would shock me in the way you describe.

I'll have to get back to you on this.

Shriner said...

I had a friend in high school who was enamored with the entire Ralph Records output -- including the Residents.

I didn't like anything I heard back then (especially the Residents) and I still don't like them now. I have some grudging respect for the artistry behind the Residents and the whole eyeballs-in-tophats thing is certainly iconic, but musically, I just can't stand it.

Anonymous said...

you obviously did not do enough bad acid cut with speed in the 80's, Sal. iirc, Joy Division rocked the same songs better as Warsaw, but then stripped them down so far as to almost not be songs. and inspired a lot of copy cats.

the most recent experience I had like this was with the Scott Walker+Sunn O))) collaboration. it's like it was dreamed up with me in mind, fascinated by Walker and at least curious about droney metal. but eh, traded it back after one listen. My attempts to like TV on the Radio have been fruitless - one song's good, next one's fine, third one's ok I get it, I've had enough. Foo Fighters also leave me bemused. It's just a ripoff of Swervedriver, right?

Anonymous said...

JD.- Even though I like most of their oeuvre (which is not difficult based on the fact that they only have a few official lp's), I think that New Order was even more important in the music development than JD.

The Chameleons.- To me, this was an even better band than JD and one of the most underrated bands in the history.

Sal Nunziato said...

I'm loving all the comments, but I need to say this-

most, if not all of the examples are bands that seem to have been sampled here and there and just never took off personally. Aside from one song, I heard ZERO by Joy Division. Swervedriver, another band I have not heard a single note of. You could play a hard bop instrumental and tell me it's Swervedriver and I'd believe you.

So slowly turning around about an artist, or giving up after a few records, is not what I was looking for.

M_Sharp said...

I've never been much of a jazz fan, and I've read for years about how Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" was one of the greatest, most important albums ever released. I dl'd the complete sessions about two years ago, listened to it a few times since then, and there’s very little that really stands out. A lot of it sounded like a bunch of musicians just noodling around in the studio, nothing all that great. Maybe you had to be there at the time it was released to understand it, I don't know.

I'm a big Captain Beefheart fan, but I still don't get "Trout Mask Replica". I listen to it every two years or so, but nothing yet.

Anonymous said...

I had a near identical experience with Joy Division myself, picked up a CD of the first album after reading so much palaver about their greatness in Mojo and Uncut, and didn't instantly hate it the way Sal did but it didn't do much for me either. A handful of subsequent listens haven't won me over. Did the same thing a few years ago with Blur, picked up Park Life to see what the fuss was about; liked better than Joy Division but still not quite sure I get the fuss.

I also just last week had a parallel but happier experience with Alan Hull, who I'd never even heard of, let alone listened to, but read something about, checked out his album Squire on spotify, and loved it. More to explore, and exciting that at this stage in my music life there is still terra incongnita worth investigating.

Bruce H

Anonymous said...

Oh, also, M Sharp. You should at least give the actual Bitches Brew album a listen. Not a radically different experience, but the edits etc. do make the original LP more cogent than the complete sessions.

Bruce H

William Repsher said...

On a similar note: "Convoy" by C.W. McCall. I had no idea what this song was about, or who C.W. McCall was. For weeks, I heard guys in the neighborhood carrying on about what a cool song it was. It was shooting up the charts. And I'll never forget buying it, I happened to see one of the "cool" kids from the neighborhood giving me a thumbs up sign as he recognized the label (think it was MGM).

Got home. Put it on the portable record player. And I couldn't believe what piece of dumb hillbilly crap this was! I was listening to Bowie at the same time for crying out loud! And guys in my neighborhood are freaking out over this stupid redneck song about C.B. radios?!

I learned an important lesson that day about peer pressure ... and that the kids in my neighborhood were dicks!

Ken D said...

I could probably name a few rap acts who I'd heard for years were "geniuses" and when I finally heard them I was left bewildered at what all the fuss was about. Repetitive braggadocio about mindless consumption and sexual prowess, spiced with strategic high-end product placement.
Meaning, I could name them, but I'll just be labelled a clueless old white guy... (guilty as charged).

FurryBootsCityBoy said...

Joy Division - "Transmission" is FAB!

Anonymous said...

Bruce H,

Park Life kind of chimed with what life was for the young folks in the UK at the time - Boys and Girls nailed the hedonism that was going on, the title song , probably doesn't mean much if you haven't grown up with Phil Daniels. Is it a great, great album... time will tell, but it remains an album full of cracking pop tunes.

steves said...

Patti Smith. And it was more than a one shot deal.

I know she's a good poet, great human being, etc., and I have tried on many different occasions to like her music.

I just can't do it. The band sounds decent on many songs, but her singing grates on my nerves each time she opens her mouth (just like Axl Rose), no matter how hard I try to resist.

Sorry, Patti. I'm sure you're still a great human being.

hpunch said...

The title of this post should be the title of their box set.

Anonymous said...

The only album that shocked me was the Smith's first. I had only heard hype surrounding them before hearing it at a friend's house. I couldn't believe that the singer was doing an even whinier English version of Gordon Gano. It was an over the top Violent Femmes who were already perched on the top. I thought it had to be a joke. My friend was not happy.

DaveF said...

I've heard for years about how good "Kimono My House" by Sparks is. "Breath taking," "Inspiring," a real "landmark release" among others. So I finally gave in and gave it a listen (maybe two) and sorry but I don't get it. Tuneless dreck with unimaginably bad singing. To each his own I guess...but I love the album artwork. Having said that I also like the Joy Division artwork too. I guess you can't judge an album by its cover.

John McGreivey said...

Everyone is obviously FOS.

How can so many people fail to recognize Eugene Chadbourne's hilarious brilliance?

dogbreath said...

For my bag of nickels worth, there's Primus (of whom I had never heard) but who were touted to me as a cool hard rock combo. This was from aficionados of the genre & back in my merry headbanging days. Not everybody's cup of tea, our friends Primus, and so it proved for me. This was in the days before "free" samples or internet radio but my music paper liked 'em. Foolishly gave in to my friends' pleadings, spent some hard earned dosh, popped the disc on & had my auditory appendages mercilessly assailed by vocals & guitar thrashes too weird for me to handle. Not their fault: I look at it as "It's not you, it's me". Didn't get it then & probably never will. My loss, I guess.

M_Sharp said...

Bruce H-

Good idea, I'll try that. The overload of material probably didn't do me much good.

And btw- great title, Sal.

neal t said...

Sal do you like New Order? I love hem but I felt same way back in the day as you did talking to yourself now about Joy Division

Anonymous said...

I second The Smiths. I genuinely thought that my friend was putting me on, pretending to like them to see if I'd bite. I was smiling at her, sort of bobbing in time with the music and laughing: "Girlfriend in a coma/I know it's serious…" I thought it was a punchline of sorts and kept waiting for her to erupt in laughter.

It was with steadily mounting horror that I realized she actually thought this was music to be taken seriously, and that this singer was not a joke on a par with…I dunno…Pork Dukes or The Shaggs or Mrs. Miller or Perry Farrell.

Sal Nunziato said...

@Neal T--I "like" New Order. I don't love New Order, but how can anyone not love "Bizarre Love Triangle." Also love "Leave Me Alone."

Anonymous said...

Zappa. I recognize that the man was a genius, but - ugh - I can not listen to him.

Beefheart. Boggles me. Follow a homeless man around for an hour with a tape recorder and you've got every Beefheart disc in existence.

Merzbow is obviously trolling his audience and I *like* noise.

There's a bunch more (Parliament/Funkadelic come to mind) that I have over the years given an honest shot but I just don't get.


Sal Nunziato said...

"Zappa. I recognize that the man was a genius, but - ugh - I can not listen to him."

"Beefheart. Boggles me. Follow a homeless man around for an hour with a tape recorder and you've got every Beefheart disc in existence."

"There's a bunch more (Parliament/Funkadelic come to mind) that I have over the years given an honest shot but I just don't get."

@ Xtm-- I find the common thread for me with Zappa, Beefheart and especially the Grateful Dead, is that if you're given the wrong material first, the about face can be difficult. I did not start out a fan of any of these people because I was force fed "Trout Mask Replica" and bad sounding live cassettes with 40 minute "Berthas." Now, "Safe As Milk" and "Clear Spot" are essential for me. But I am with you on Parliament/Funkadelic. I wanna be in on the joke.

Michael Giltz said...

Surely Morrissey would WANT you to giggle along with his often hilarious lyrics?

I had an English teacher in high school who focused on british lit and used that as an excuse to play rock n roll music (loudly) on Fridays. This was a Catholic high school, so he was a rebel. (And subsequently invited to leave after selling/sharing some pot with some students.) He talked enthusiastically about listening to U2 for the first time while walking around London (not Ireland, but close and obviously he was listening to a cassette on a Walkman). So that was cool because I started digging Boy. he praised this band and that band. I'd eagerly check them out and numerous other great artists, so his opinion held major weight with me. But his FAVORITE band of all time was The Tubes. They had that one-off hit video on MTV and this cool teacher was raving about them as literally a foundational band a la the Stones and so on. So I got the cassette and put it on and thought, "WTF?" So in class I call him out and say, WTF (sort of) and he mocks me saying "Your ignorance is showing" because he knows I can take it. Then later relents and suggests maybe one should see them live to really appreciate their greatness. Something I've never done, happily. Down The Tubes, I say.

PS the damn computerized system for posting insisted I pick out the plates of food that contained oranges before they'd post my last one AND IT WAS REALLY HARD!! A plate of fruit with no oranges but another seemingly orange-free meal that did in fact contain oranges, perhaps pureed I guess? Here I try again; it's like the SATs now!