Joy Division
Les Bains Douches 18 December 1979



by MasterandCommander USER (3 Reviews)
January 2nd, 2010 | 10 replies

Release Date: 2001 | Tracklist

Review Summary: One of the finest live albums in existence, we will not see their like again

There are some people who believe that the most important day in British musical history was June 4th 1976 when The Sex Pistols played their first gig outside of London at The Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall. Only about 40 people actually attended the gig, but among their number were Tony Wilson, Steven Patrick Morrissey, Mark E Smith, 3 future members of The Buzzcocks and two impressionable teenage boys named Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner. The next day these 2 boys went out, bought a guitar and a bass and formed Warsaw. Later on that summer, on July 20th, The Pistols played a far bigger gig in Manchester, a notable attendee was one Ian Kevin Curtis. After joining Warsaw Curtis changed the name of the band to “Joy Division” and the rest, to be a clichéd bastard, is history.

While listening to Joy Divisions album “Closer” it’s hard to recall the origins of the group at those two gigs in 1976. Any remnants of Punk are buried under echoing drums, synthesisers and Curtis’s suicidal writing. With “Les Bains Douches 18 December 1979” the influence is plain to see. The Joy Division were a completely different experience live than on record. This album is faster and messier than anything heard from the studio. The Track listing is basically a greatest hits for all things Joy Division apart from the omission of some of the better tracks from “Closer”, “Colony” would have worked fantastically in the style of the songs on this album. Nevertheless there are a few gems for fans here such as “Autosuggestion” and “Passover”

Frantic Drumming, distorted bass and Curtis with a growl, it all starts with “Disorder” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” sounding so much better than ever before. At this breakneck pace even “Shadowplay” is a fast and sharp song. The songs are kept short, the first five tracks rush by in about 16 minutes and there is no real interaction with the crowd to break up the experience.

On this album, almost every song could be considered a highlight, each one fantastically written and each one given a new hitherto unexperienced lease of life. I would rate “24 Hours” as one of Joy Divisions most depressing songs, but on this record it’s as well driven as any of the others, with that classic bass line pushing Curtis’s best writing onward. The three best songs on the album are “New Dawn Fades”, “Atrocity Exhibition” and “Digital” and they are all played one after the other. They showcase the band at their absolute peak in a live setting. Perfectly in sync, with each instrument getting just the right amount of attention in brilliantly written songs.

There are a few downsides however, I never liked “A Means To An End” and I don’t like it here, the vocals are uncharacteristically weak at times but for the most part it is an improvement on the original. There’s also an early version of “Passover”, one of the best songs ever released by the band, but it quite simply doesn’t work in this form and is by far the worst song on the album.

This album is probably the best live album I’ve ever listened to, the overwhelming majority of songs work perfectly, showing a different side to the band. You get the sense that some of the songs are more rounded than they were originally on record, most notably “Atmosphere”. The Joy Division were never the most technically talented band in the world, but here they find fantastic sounds in their instruments that could stand beside the best. This album should stand behind “Closer” and “Unknown Pleasures” as the highlights of the best band to grace the Post-Punk movement.

I give it a 4.5, as a live album, not an album full stop and it is important to keep this in mind.

user ratings (66)

Comments:Add a Comment 
January 2nd 2010



January 2nd 2010


Havent heard much of Joy Divisions live work so I will check out. Joy Division will never be duplicated, but I do believe Have A Nice Life is the second coming of them in every way.

January 2nd 2010


good band

August 30th 2010


the tracks are taken from 3 different concerts btw.

* Tracks 1-9 recorded at Les Bains Douches, Paris, 18 December 1979.
* Tracks 10-12 recorded at Paradiso, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 11 January 1980.
* Tracks 13-16 recorded at Effenaar, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, 18 January 1980.

November 19th 2010


Album Rating: 5.0

good review, but passover is one of the highlights of the album if you ask me

November 23rd 2010


Album Rating: 5.0

amazingly well written review, love the history lesson in the first paragraph i didn't know that and my dropped to the floor when i read this. thank you for giving me my favorite fun fact of the month. definitely my favorite live album of all time it captured how great this band was live. perfect choice of songs on this album if you ask me, great band

March 8th 2013


shadowplay on this is ridiculously intense

November 26th 2014


this rocks straight from the first drum kicks on disorder

Digging: Mamaleek - Via Dolorosa

July 15th 2016


Album Rating: 5.0

Dammit happy birthday Ian... Jamming everything Joy Division today

Digging: Black Magick SS - Kaleidoscope Dreams

February 1st 2017


Never appreciated this band till I heard their live music. This is the way to go.

You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile


Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Site Copyright 2005-2017
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy