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Friday 8 February 1980 concert review

Magazine: Melody Maker (UK)

Publication date: Saturday 9 February 1980

Reviewer: Chris Bohn


 

NORTHERN GLOOM: 2 SOUTHERN STOMP: 1 / UNIVERSITY OF LONDON UNION

AH, the horror, the horror... where's Colonel Kurtz? Somehow the demented Brando figure is there, spiritually leading the new dance. Like him, today's purveyors have witnessed the failure of wanton destruction as epitomized by punk, and in turn have retreated inwardly
But whereas be translated his thoughts into some nightmare paradise of his own creation, recent bands' introspections manifest themselves in tight, uneasy rhythms, simultaneously despondent and obsessively exhilarating. Coming too late to loose themselves in furiously simple thrashes, they've composed out of that same frustration something more complex, but equally immediate
Joy Division are masters of this gothic gloom, and they're gating even better at it. Since they played London last November [=
Friday 9 November 1979] with the Buzzcocks, they've added new songs, more rigorous than their predecessors. Less colourful now, they're getting closer to the despair that's been the core of their work thus far, and they're homing in on it by twisting purplish plots round slower rhythms, bringing the bass even further to the fore and allowing Ian Curtis's knotted-brow singing greater expression
In other hands their songs would collapse disastrously, but
Curtis's controlled balladeering makes lines like "I remember when we were young" (from Insight) one of the saddest statements in pop, which is after all, the province of the young, and that sung to the sweetest, most melancholic tune, too
Perversely, they didn't play the great last single,
Transmission, but the next, Love will tear us apart, was tantalizingly aired; featuring synthesizer more heavily to lightening effect, it breaks away from the claustrophobia into clearer surrounds. Optimism on the way? Whatever, I'm prepared to wait
Section 25, from Rochdale, share similar obsessions, creating tight, uneasy music with rapid-fire chattering hi-hats, deeply resonant bass and portentous guitar chording and/or shrill riffing. The singer intones repetitive, inflexible lyrics, which add to the closet privacy, but somehow he undermines it all with a few offhand remarks. They're okay and I'd like to see them again
Sandwiched between are the seemingly incongruous
Killing Joke, whose apocalyptic prognostications aren't far removed, though their approach is a thousand miles apart. Coming on like the quintessential yob band, but with the survival key of expertise, they've got the technical punch to back up their basic stomp, especially when the keyboardman plays Stax-type stabs of synth noise. They're glorious and irreverent, but really the Northern gloom carried the night, "Where will it end, where will it end?" [from the song Day of the lords]