Joy Division’s ‘Disorder’: Perfectly Crafted Chaos


There’s a moment just before the end of Disorder where the song erupts in to a marvellous crescendo of distorted guitar and Ian Curtis’s crooning. There seems to be a juxtaposition between the lyrics - where Curtis describes losing a feeling  - and the direction of the song, with the repetitive guitar lick hitting all of the musical pleasure centres, but of course these types of contradiction are very much why Joy Division can still capture the imagination today. However, when one listens a bit deeper, it is possible to hear the bassline of the piece skew off in to an arpeggio-like riff that completely derails the path the euphoric guitar was taking, and if you focus on that it is almost impossible not to lose the happy feeling that we get when we listen to certain musical patterns, including the guitar riff. It is this attention to detail that - for me, at least - makes Disorder one of the best openers to an album of all time.


For a song with so few surprises, Disorder continues to amaze and perplex me. There is the Joy Division juxtaposition that I mentioned earlier; seemingly upbeat and happy music combined with the forlorn-tinged lyrics of a desperately misunderstood and depressed Curtis (not that this is the blueprint for every Joy Division song, but it certainly does crop up a fair amount in their more iconic outings). Furthermore, there is the fact that Curtis and the band managed to fit so much feeling in to such a small space. The song itself runs at around 3.30, but it is the lyrics that are the very definition of perfection in simplicity.


The way in which the lyrics have been crafted for Disorder are typical Curtis, with the words dripping with his personality and demons. The song begins on a hopeful note and a thread of escapism runs through the rhythm and lyrics; whether this is an analogy for seeing the world through the lens of Curtis’s severe epilepsy, his manic depression or even simply through the mind of someone who is off their face, the song is all about seeing the world in a new, better way. As the piece begins to build it morphs in to a kind of punk-dance hybrid, with the high tempo beat accompanied by even more energetic guitar riffs and singing.


Although the actual lyrics themselves are stunning, the form which they take is another factor that continues to awe me. The artful nature in which Curtis and Joy Division have managed to mould this song explains how it continues to captivate and resonate with millions of people today; by veering between the content and the uncomfortable, Disorder manages to simultaneously excite and yet feel somewhat familiar. The words are perfectly ordered in to a simplistic symphony that flawlessly captures the essence of the song in both meaning and cadence.


With so much easily accessible new music being produced every day, I sometimes forget how much I really love Joy Division. For a song all about being in chaos and disarray, Disorder appears to be as impeccably crafted as even the most refined piece of art, and deserves to be treated as such.

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