Review Summary: Substance is a perfect snapshot of the many directions of Joy Division, as well as a record of damn good songs.
Compilations can be pretty stupid. While most 'best of' type records aim to give a good snapshot of the band or artist in question, the majority of them turn out to be misrepresenting, not cohesive and generally worthless, not to mention the constant complaints from fans of the band/artist about missing tracks, length, track order, etc. In their careers, Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris have certainly released their share of compilations. Most fans of New Order
, however, will tell you that Substance
is the only New Order compilation worth owning. Thankfully, the same is true for Joy Division
, in all of its 17 tracks, provides the perfect snapshot of the all-too-short career of the post-punk legends.
There are arguably two ideal ways to properly understand Substance
is a singles compilation of songs spanning the three-year recording career of Joy Division, so firstly, the compilation needs to be seen as a separate entity to the band's two full length records; not quite a 'best of' compilation, but not at all another album. This makes sense because while Substance
contains very few tracks from either of the band's two near-perfect albums, it does contain some of their very best work. Secondly, Substance
can be seen as a companion piece to the much bigger New Order compilation of the same name. While the Joy Division Substance
is not in chronological order, it is fitting that the record closes with a song recorded in the band's last year of existence and the New Order Substance
opens with "Ceremony", a very early New Order track that was actually, at one point, a Joy Division song (there are two Joy Division recordings of the song). The two records can either be seen as two separate snapshots of the careers of both bands, or as an exhaustive journey through the evolution of the musicians involved in both bands.
Although the songs don't appear in chronological order (at best, the order is a very rough chronological one), the evolution that occurs between the aggressive punk of opener "Warsaw" to the aptly titled "Atmosphere" takes the listener on a journey of the remarkably fast progression of the constantly changing band over its short career. Perhaps what's most interesting about each song is the way that in almost every instance, the band retain their core sound of Peter Hook's dominant bass guitar, Bernard Sumner's spiky electric guitar, Stephen Morris' human metronome drumming and Curtis' bleak vocal delivery. Although there are varying changes both stylistically and texturally, these elements are rarely absent.
Although an entirely different experience from either Joy Division album, Substance
is a perfectly ordered compilation with nothing but amazing singles filling up its 60+ minute running time. As an introduction to the band's career, Substance
works well, though perhaps not as well either of the band's full length albums. As it is, however, Substance
is a perfect addition to the collection of the (casual or otherwise) Joy Division fan and completely essential to anyone with any interest in the musical journey of the band or any of its members.
Very well ordered
Great mix of different points in their career
Nothing but amazing songs
Love Will Tear Us Apart
Final Rating: 5/5