Short Cuts

Curtis' stature as the patron saint of gloomy goth kids everywhere guarantees an audience for the new Joy Division box set, Heart and Soul. It contains 80 tracks spread over four discs -- yet it's still not complete. "With a few exceptions," reads the elaborate, rectangular package, "everything Joy Division recorded and released is contained here." Those few exceptions aren't major ones, and the only truly reprehensible omission is the band's grisly cover of "Sister Ray," available on the 1981 compilation Still. But the fact that there is any exception at all makes one wonder if this $67 import is a boon for Joy Division fans or an attempt to make money off them.

Nevertheless, thanks to its sheer scope, Heart and Soul presents a breathtaking, panoramic view of the band. Familiar songs, such as "Love Will Tear Us Apart," the band's only hit single, share disc space with more obscure cuts, such as "Komakino," released on a seven-inch the month before Curtis died. Joy Division always sounded as if it were coming from a point twenty years in the future, and still does. Morris' thin, simple drum patterns (and sparing use of synthesized drum-pads) serve as Joy Division's brittle skeleton. Hook's bass, unusually enough, provides the melodies, while Sumner's guitar adds rhythm, noise, dischord, and harmony. The band's architectural use of space remains unequaled; even the rough version of "Shadowplay" included here is as clean and functional as a Bauhaus high-rise.

Somehow, despite Curtis' hopeless lyrics and unstable voice, Joy Division is as bracing and refreshing as a splash of ice water. Perhaps it's Curtis' straightforward approach to his own emotions. On "Isolation" he states, "Mother, I've tried, please believe me/I'm doing the best that I can/I'm ashamed of the things I've been put through/I'm ashamed of the person I am." Just by straining his voice a notch higher, Curtis can raise goose bumps: The power of "Dead Souls" comes from its chorus, "They keep calling me/They keep calling me." Like Curtis' suicide, these songs make their points with little fuss and great finality.

Fans who want every single memento of Joy Division will need to buy Still and The Peel Sessions to really complete their scrapbooks. But the five hours of music on Heart and Soul are the next best thing to a visit with Joy Division -- and they're over way too soon.

-- Rafer Guzman

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