Before hearing Jäh Division’s imaginative deconstructions of classic Joy Division songs, I suppose I was already primed to accept this kind of thing. Due to the success of artists like Easy Star All-Stars & their guest-heavy reinterpretations of classic albums like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, Radiohead’s OK Computer & Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, I was already quite receptive to the idea of hearing some of my life’s cultural touchstones rendered in Dub.
The idea of Joy Division’s music rendered as Dub calls to mind something that cultural theorist/political philosopher Mark Fisher wrote about Post-Punk bands like The Fall and Joy Division. He observed how their bass-led songwriting & production provided a white equivalent to Dub Reggae. The salient point here being that it is a white equivalent rather than a white version. Young working class white kids working out their marginalisation in bass-heavy soundscapes in much the same way as the working class black kids, but yielding completely different results.
So before I even listen to it, Jäh Division has pretty big shoes to fill. Does it succeed? Maybe. I don’t know. It’s quite enjoyable as a Dub album but it’s debatable how well the original songs hold up during the transformation. Opening track Transmission is barely recognisable with the tempo reduced to a languid crawl, only the bass line bears any resemblance to the original. It exemplifies how different an element from a song can sound if taken out of its original context. I have similar feelings about Heart And Soul Isolation too. Enjoyable enough Dub, sure, but almost unrecognisable as the Joy Division song.
Transmission, for my money, is a little more successful. The reduction in tempo & energy isn’t quite enough to ground the dizzy heights scaled by the songs gorgeous melody synth. The dubby delays even seem to add buoyancy to these heroically soaring melodies. Love Will Tear Us Apart also works quite well here. No accident that it is their most accessible and radio friendly song. It could fit into almost any genre without diminishing its appeal.
The 2019 rerelease also features four bonus tracks which are actually original compositions rather than Joy Division covers. These are all fine, decent Dub tracks. I have no complaints but they don’t really stand out & they feel a trifle unnecessary so I won’t really dwell on them too much.
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