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Saturday, 25 July 2015

Music for when your flight crashes out of the sky

As I write this I'm listening to Joy Division's Isolation on the in-flight entertainment package of a Lufthansa flight 34,995 feet above the Ob-Irtysh River in the Khanti Mansi autonomous okrug of the Russian Federation.

Let's all sing along: "I'm ashamed of things I've been put through / I'm ashamed of the person I am." Er, OK! Ian Curtis's wonderfully uplifting lyrics there. Speeding us along.

So what's going on? I said, WHAT'S GOING ON!? A Joy Division "album" (Total: From Joy Division To New Order, Rhino 2011 to be precise) nestling alongside infinitely cherishable music from Kylie Minogue, Coldplay, Dire Straits and Biffy Clyro.

Jeez. Let's storm the cockpit or something. What's happening! Where has my world gone? If we've now got the likes of Transmission and Ceremony available to us on tinny speakers between the complimentary wine/beer and the foil-packed food on a plastic tray ... er, it feels like we've turned a corner. Gone down the wrong road. Or something.

One's tempted to ask: where's the mystery, that ineffable Factory aura, the strange otherworldliness of the JD/NO sound haunting the railway arches and underlit passages fanning out from Whitworth Street West and the crazed egomaniacal empire of Tony Wilson, Peter Saville and their gang? Gone! All gone!

Have we lost something precious ("my precious, my precious")? Hmm. It's certainly jarring to see that things have come to this, but it's not really surprising. We're (ahem) decades on from Joy Division now, many many years on from New Order's Balearic beats period, and of course also many years on from the deaths of Martin Hannett and Tony Wilson. Bands lose their way and crucially lose control of their music (they've lost control again ...). I doubt Joy Division would have wanted their music regurgitated as "press-here" inboard entertainment (or would they?), but commerce trumps all and the saleability of a few JD/NO tracks is of longlasting "value" to those who get to decide these things.

Total control: Joy Division coming to a headrest near you

As it happens the selection being offered for consumption to Lufthansa passengers is a pretty lukewarm version of the oeuvre: Transmission/Love Will Tear Us Apart/Isolation/She's Lost Control/Atmosphere/Ceremony/Temptation/Blue Monday/Thieves Like Us/The Perfect Kiss/Bizarre Love Triangle/True Faith/Fine Time/World In Motion/Regret/Crystal/Krafty/Hellbent.

But I guess this is the fate of any body of work when it chances to venture into the marketplace. It's cut to ribbons! Chopped up, sanitised, served up with the salty snacks ...

No, I'll try to forget this little airborne encounter with Joy Division's "dark, brooding sound" (Lufthansa copy writers) and return to Unknown Pleasures and Power, Corruption And Lies as if it never happened. Meanwhile, let's see what other gems they've got on this flight's music selection ... ah, that's better! Brian Eno's Music For Airports ...

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