Although Joy Division managed just two studio albums during its time as a going concern, there’s now a raft of material out there to choose from if you're looking for a wider overview of the band’s career – from Peel Session(s) to live sets to box sets, and all manner of compilation album in between. This one, Permanent, from 1995, is one of the better collections on offer.
Joy Division were most famously associated with Factory Records, but Permanent is a London Records release after that label snapped up chunks of Factory’s catalogue when the Manc-based label hit the skids. I’m not sure whether or not that’s the reason Permanent always seems to get bad press, but early accusations that this was merely a cash-in and an unnecessary release by a predatory label might now appear a little churlish when you consider all of the subsequent compilation releases of Joy Division material across the past two decades.
Whatever the case, for casual fans of the band, Permanent definitely has its place. It may not be anywhere near as comprehensive as Heart And Soul (the extensive box set) or delve quite as deep as Substance (which included more early demos and B-sides), but it does feature all of the band’s key singles, and many of the best tracks from the two studio albums and the posthumous odds and sods, Still.
I think I prefer Permanent over Substance because it contains Closer’s ‘Isolation’, and because we also get two versions of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ (including the 1995 remix). And of course there’s ‘Transmission’, ‘She's Lost Control’, ‘Shadowplay’, ‘Heart And Soul’, ‘These Days’, ‘Novelty’, and naturally, the wonderful ‘Atmosphere’.
Permanent can therefore be considered a fairly concise – if not particularly complete – overview of Joy Division’s best work … which is really all any non-anally retentive casual fan will want, surely?