Album Reviews A-Z – A 40-year repository of critiques

Album Reviews A-Z – A 40-year repository of critiques

Gary Steel has critiqued 40 years of popular – and often unpopular – music through his sometimes withering critiques. He has been described as “NZ’s most acerbic music writer”. This is the landing page for his complete A-Z of album (and a few EPs and singles) reviews.


+ Ephemera

+ Old live shows!

Here’s Steel’s full explanation of this ongoing archiving project: ALL THE DETAILS HERE FOLKS! Suffice to say that all these pages are “live” and will be added to every week. After you click on a letter, then just search the document for the artists you want to read about.

I will highlight one of the added reviews each week on this landing page for entertainment value. Cool bananas!


Joy Division – Love Will Tear us Apart

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

16 May 1981/Evening Post

At last, Joy Division music is available in New Zealand. On the independent British Factory label, chances of New Zealand release seemed slim. But these records are the first, and there is more to come.

A considerable amount of hyperbole has gone down about this legendary band, most of it arising from the tragic suicide of vocalist/lyricist Ian Curtis. But in clear terms, Joy Division is among the most important of bands: this is that rarest of music which affects the heart and intellect. It has relatively mainstream appeal with the rock audience, yet it is revolutionary.

‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ (a single) is one of the most beautiful songs ever heard in a rock context. Being Joy Division’s final single, its unforgettable melody is imbued with the deepest melancholy and resignation: “You cry out in your sleep/All my failings exposed/Bitter taste in my mouth/As desperation takes hold.”

Adult angst music par excellence. Grown-up rock music, at last.

If New Zealand radio does not play this single, which is selling in huge quantities, the programmers will have much to answer for.

Unknown Pleasures is the debut album, released in Britain mid-1979. The rock is a little more traditional and the sadness does not cut quite as deep as on their later work. Though I find it more tentative than their other work, Closer, it is still a classic from beginning to end, and essential to all relevant record collections.

Suffice to say that all 10 tracks are of equal stature. As there is not space enough to detail them all, it would be unfair to pay lip-service to a few.

Unknown Pleasures is the album, and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is the single. They are for any heart that beats. 10/10

PS, Update 23 June 1981 – It is interesting to note that the records featured in last week’s review, Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ single and Unknown Pleasures album, are both Number 1 on the national record sales chart this week. However, radio play is conspicuous by its absence. Does this mean radio playlists depend on programme directors rather than the tastes of record buyers?


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