Album Review: Joy Division – An Ideal For Living EP

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An Ideal For Living is Joy Division’s mostly discarded and forgotten debut release. At a glance, this EP is nothing but a straight forward generic English punk rock release that does not hold a torch to the studio albums of Joy Division. However, when you dig deeper into this record, you see a worthy precursor to Joy Division’s trademark “gloomy, atmospheric” sound they created only two years before Ian Curtis’ tragic suicide in 1980. This EP has the foundations of what Unknown Pleasures would come to be in every single song, with the EP’s loud and sharp guitar leads, tight quick drums, powerful bass structures, and intelligent lyrics. This EP is the closest thing we have to Joy Division’s desired sound as the band disliked the gloomy production on their debut and sophomore studio albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer.

The first track, “Warsaw”, is actually one of Joy Division’s top songs in my opinion, as well as being one of my all time favorite punk rock songs. The song begins with an iconic punk spoken word number introduction, but instead instead of the classic “1, 2, 3, 4!”, Ian shouts “3, 5, 0, 1, 2, 5, go!”, which was Rudolph Hess’ Prisoner of War serial number during World War 2, which lyrically, is what this song is all about. The song instrumentally is vicious, fast,and tense. The way the drums and the guitar weave in and out of one another in the verses and chorus is what gives this song it’s fantastic melody.

“No Love Lost”, is a song that resembles Joy Division’s sophomore album, Closer, the most with it’s slower tempo, one-two note guitar riffs with light flanger effects, prominent tom heavy drumming, and Ian’s shouting vocal delivery. The song is mostly instrumental and the vocals make in appearance about 3/4ths into the song, and I would imagine this track to be a staple at a 1987 Joy Division punk show. The next song, “Leaders of Men”, is a song that foreshadows Joy Division’s darker, mood building instrumental style that would eventually elevate the band to legendary status. This is a bass lead song, and the drums take somewhat of a backseat here. The guitar riffs could honestly allow this song to pass as a cover of a Bauhaus track, even though Bauhaus did not release their debut album until 1980. A side note here, in the final line of this song, Ian is not saying “masturbation”, he is saying “mass salvation” (I had to look up the lyrics myself).

The final track, “Failures”, is the least memorable song on this EP, it is much more fast paced, chaotic, and danceable over it’s precursors. It is not that this song is bad, it is just not as good as the other songs on this album, which is pretty clear based on the song’s unknown status among Joy Division fans, it is not spoken about very often. It does feature a guitar solo near the end of the track that was a breath of fresh air for Joy Division on this EP, however I just do not enjoy this track as much.

To conclude, this is an underrated EP that I would recommend to Joy Division fans as well as fans of late 70s punk rock. It is an insight into Joy Division’s raw punk rock sound that was derived from their punk influences. Because this EP is rare to get ahold of and is absent from popular streaming services and stores, you can only really listen to the original on YouTube. However, I have found a way to get a copy of the 2010 Remastered variant of this EP which is just as decent. I use Spotify to listen to music so what I did was download the Joy Division compilation album, “Substance”, and create a playlist with the songs that are on the EP. All of the songs on An Ideal For Living can be found in the compilation album, Substance, so this is a way to access this EP, otherwise you could probably download it online or something, I don’t know.

Release Date: 3 June 1978

Genres: Punk Rock.

Tracklist: 

  1. Warsaw
  2. No Love Lost
  3. Leaders of Men
  4. Failures

Track Highlights: Warsaw, No Love Lost, Leaders of Men.

i. e. 8/10

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