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Permanent CD review

Magazine: Q (UK)

Publication date: July 1995

Reviewer: Andrew Collins


 

UNTARNISHED

Joy Division: they wore the hair-shirt of pop
Now, thanks to the widow
Curtis's book, Touching from a distance, we know Joy Division's tragic linchpin to have been a philandering, punchy, rightwing, solvent-silly control freak who – to his credit – had constantly warned his spouse that he intended to bow out before his twenties were up. Jesus, we'd always guessed Ian Curtis was a few underpasses short of an urban sprawl, but this morbidly fascinating account of one epileptic's slide into self-destruction spices Joy Division's music with a whole new flavour of authentic urgency. Permanent, a definitive souvenir for the people and a head-on-the-wall trophy for London Records, further post-rationalises the Curtis myth, although it doesn't take a coroner's report to hear the incurable gloom and deep, existential pain that stalks this music like a grey-shirted grim reaper
A legacy recorded over just 12 months, from the jittery power of 1979's
Transmission (and it's phenomenal B-side, Novelty, rent asunder by this eerily non-chronological tracklisting) to the band's most celebrated work, the near-buoyant Love will tear us apart, this 15-song document (16, if you count a pointless remix of the latter Don Gehman) is simply untarnished by 15 years of acid house, grunge, rap and The Other Two records. While the previous best of, Substance, was bottom-ended by completist inclusion of old Warsaw stuff, Permanent takes the dignified approach: two tracks from Unknown Pleasures, four from Closer, plus Atmosphere and the best of Still – whether any collection is truly definitive without Komakino, Decades, Disorder and the rest is mere quibbling in the face of a splendid, streamlined sweep-up. First-timers will be left in little doubt: this was a visionary rock group whose occasional stylistic frigidity never sounded mechanical or pretentious. Ian Curtis was categorically not messing about
Even the stink of marketing that permeates
Permanent (there's a plug for it on the dust-jacket of Deborah Curtis's book) cannot blunt its musical impact, through Stephen Morris's stark, insistent drumming, Peter Hook's lead bass parts, the haunted guitar of Bernard Sumner (né Albrecht), and Curtis doing what he was born to die for. Joy Division expressed themselves in many different ways until he lost control again...