Warsaw / Joy Division – “An Ideal for Killing”

OK, so if you were into techno/dance/electronic music back in the day, you certainly remember the band New Order (who were awesome), and you probably know that band actually formed out of the three surviving members of another outfit previously known as Joy Division prior to the suicide of their lead singer Ian Curtis. Joy Division, my friends, was founded under the name Warsaw in 1977… so that’s why you should care about Warsaw.

The band never released any albums under the Warsaw name, so I was a bit surprised when I came across this at Seattle’s absolutely most punk record store Singles Going Steady, a store that pretty much just carries punk, crust, metal, and maybe a bit of reggae. This was obviously some kind of newer release band compilation, and since I didn’t have any experience with their early stuff I decided to check it out.

Another Ideal for Killing is an “unofficial” release from 2011, putting it that sort of nebulous no-man’s-land of is it or is it not a bootleg. The 12 songs are all live recordings from between 1977 and 1980, and if there’s one thing you’ll notice (other than the wildly inconsistent sound quality) is that this music is hard. This is a heavy brand of punk and one that that is moving more towards no wave than new wave, with a dark feel to it. The liner notes give a decent description of the goal in releasing this album (other than the obvious – making money, and probably without paying any royalties to anyone):

Although the main part of these album recordings date [to] Joy Division
times, they are unmistakably WARSAW songs. This compilation is
designed to trace the emancipation of Joy Division from WARSAW
punk roots.

This is some heavy stuff. “Ice Age,” the opening track of side B, is straight up punk and sounds like it could have been recorded by the Dead Kennedys, and it’s probably the best song on the album. That honor could just have well gone to the song that follows it, “Walked in Line,” but the recording quality is god-awful, a wall of distortion and noise obscuring a song that sounds like it probably has some great guitar work and structure. Ironically that’s immediately followed by the cleanest track on the the album, “Day of the Lords,” a song that suffers for other reasons, like some lackluster singing by Curtis.

Warsaw as an important band in the early punk scene, and one notable for what it became as time moved on, making an even more radical departure from punk than John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) did in forming PiL. That being said, if you’re a big time New Order fan the music on An Ideal for Killing probably won’t appeal to you unless you want to hear the band’s heavy, heavy roots. Not for the faint at heart or those who can’t handle albums with inconsistent sound quality, but if you’re willing to put effort into it, there’s some great stuff there.


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