‘Total’ is sort of a triptych of an album, featuring 5 Joy Division tracks and 11 New Order tunes - 12 if you include the previously unheard ‘Hellbent’. A quick history lesson for those unversed in either bands history; Joy Division were an extremely influential post-punk unit from Manchester, England, releasing only 2 highly revered LP’s in ’79 and ‘80 before their singer/songwriter Ian Curtis committed suicide, leaving his band mates, guitarist Sumner, drummer Morris, and bass player ‘Hooky’ behind. Regenerating a year later as New Order, the lads, along with new recruit Gillian Gilbert, soon recovered, and shaped their sound into something equally new and influential - an intriguing blend of alternative rock and danceable electro rhythms. But, considering the undeniable mass sphere of influence and critical acclaim both bands have drawn over the years, could 18 tracks ever be a ‘total’ exemplification of the bands magnitude and quality?
The set kicks off with 5 Joy Division tracks, all classics, all stunningly harrowing and dark, yet somehow mystical and searching, simultaneously. The 5 numbers are the usual suspects - ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ makes an expected experience, as does ‘Transmission’, but to cut a long story short, the tracks are a scanty prime selection of the bands output, and if still far from being totally representative of the supreme quality of Joy Division, they do still paint a rather stunning and varied picture - shifting from the sparse, gloomy, dirge of ‘She’s Lost Control’ to the synth tinged, sprightly, melancholic ‘Isolation’, and back again.
The rest of the disc is made up of New Order hits, and it’s really thrilling to move from the sepulchral, beautifully tragic post-punk of Joy Division, to the fresh, lively bounce of New Order’s highlights. Like with ‘Joy’, 12 tracks is never going to be sufficient enough to adorn listeners with the full brunt of the brilliance of New Order - a few fan favourites may be missed here and there (Your Silent Face, or Dreams Never End, for example) - but what the set does have going for it, is a brisk, sweeping quality. Although it’s by no means comprehensive, all in all, it doesn’t really matter - ‘Total’ is, for all intents and purposes, only trying to serve as a brief, but compelling, introduction to both bands work, and in short, the consistent quality and flowing semi-chronological order means the album is an overall success, if still a minor flawed one due it‘s somewhat skimpy length.
There’s not much more that can be said, other than, if you’re interested, just go and listen! All the New Order hits are present: the irrepressible ‘Blue Monday’, ‘True Faith’, the gorgeous ‘The Perfect Kiss’ - to keep it short and sweet, this is all great music and pretty much essential listening for those who’ve yet to discover either band. And ‘Total’ offers that opportunity, with a not a single duff track and a unique chance to view both Joy Division’s and New Order’s work in one brief, yet spectacular bundle. To round off this review, there couldn’t be a much more appropriate place to end than with the final track - previously unreleased ‘Hellbent’. It’s no ‘Blue Monday’, but then again, few tracks reach the lofty heights of the aforementioned so it’s hardly a fair criticism. Essentially, it’s an enjoyable enough romp, sounding as good as any other modern day New Order number. I began this review by asking the question could 18 tracks from two different bands ever be sufficient enough to be called a total career retrospective? The answer is no, but that’s irrelevant, because, at the end of the day, if these 18 tracks were released as a singular, standard studio album, and not a career spanning compilation, ‘Total’ would be hailed as one of the greatest albums of the alternative genre, and that, to my ears, is enough to warrant it’s existence.
STOP SHOUTING! - Possibly, dude, could just be trying to rope in more sales, but I'm sure you know that New Order are, essentially, Joy Division without Curtis, so it could be a genuine career retrospective simply trying to chart the progression and evolution of the band. Who cares if its a bit of gimmick - still nice to have all this great music in one place!
Irving - Thanks, and constructive criticism taken on-board. I've jiggled the first sentence around a bit - i see what you meant about it being slighty awkward.
As for triptych - the way i meant to use it was, using its (loose) definition as a work of art in three pieces, its a way of looking at the album - 1 part - joy division, 1 part - established new order tracks, and the final part - a new, new order track, but yeah, i take your point - it's a bit fumbling and ambitious.
There are just too many joy division compilations. How many times can people pay for and listen to the same material? I love Joy Division, and Closer is one of my favourite albums, but it's getting rediculous