The following is my review for the Joy Division song “Warsaw”, an assignment for the Punk Rock & Underground class at Emerson College.
The challenge here was to review the song with no research or side material whatsoever. Although, being a Joy Division admirer, I think I let myself use of some little known facts to base my opinion on.
Later, I found some information on the web, and I thought this site was pretty helpful. If you wanna do the exercise yourself, feel free to download the file at the end of the page post, THEN read the review, THEN check out the link.
Some people would say that reviewing music in retrospect is an easy job, considering that time has passed by to show you the background of the scene where it belonged – whatever consequence that movement had on its surroundings is already history. Another group would disagree: to build opinion about music that had a future which you’re aware of, is tough. How to pretend that the artist never became successful and not look at his early work as a promise, for example? Or how to ignore the influence of managers, producers and recording studios on some band’s music when you know their entire career, with its ups and downs? I consider myself part of the second group and have to keep ignoring what I already know and hope that it won’t trespass the opinion line.
When I first listened to “Warsaw” I couldn’t help thinking about a group of teenagers playing music and following the recipe to become a punk rock band. The simplicity of the song’s structure translated into instantaneous punk reference. The loud but steady bass line, the guitar riffs that were never too risky and the monotone vocals gave me the same impression. The number shouting at the beginning reminded me of The Ramones even though these ones seemed to make less sense than “one-two-three-four”. Despite of that unoriginality aspect, I thought that the recording of the track itself counted on undeniable quality. The instruments could be heard clearly. At times though, I caught myself not being able to tell if drums were being played throughout the whole song or if a synthesizer was also being used.
Finally, listening to and analysing the verses left me a bit mislead – at the same time, I couldn’t understand their meaning due to its metaphors but I also admired the band for writing lyrics like that, considering that I pictured them at an early stage of their career. I guess my admiration could be justified – they didn’t automatically jump into the mock-rock punk style like many others would, following steps already taken by The New York Dolls, The Dictators ad The Sex Pistols. That formula worked for those bands, but by the content of “Warsaw” I could tell that these guys were trying to send a message, whether it was encoded or not.
As I listened and gathered ideas to review “Warsaw”, I tried not to think of the band as the Joy Division they would become, but as a band like any other. It was easier than I expected, considering the development that time brought to their different fases as a band – at the point where this song was probably recorded, their music didn’t have the character that later they would find.