Is New Order Better Than Joy Division?

 New Order, Chile 2019

Joy Division is beloved by millions despite only existing for a few years. Many people know they became New Order and went on to great success. But is New Order better than Joy Division?

Here is what I know from being a lifelong fan of both:

New Order is not necessarily better than Joy Division, but New Order does have a much larger catalog of music, a wider variety of musical styles, and have grown to be outstanding live performers while Joy Division, like early New Order, were often not great live.

Joy Division produced only 2 successful studio albums in their career, whereas New Order has produced ten studio albums, 12 compilation albums, 6 live albums, 45 singles, and 12 video releases.

And they’re still going!

But in this article, we’ll compare the two, look at why some people like one over the other, and even look at how many Joy Division songs New Order perform live.

I’m also in a unique situation having not only seen New Order live in 1983, 1987, 1989, and 2013 respectively. But my band opened for them in 1983!

Let’s dig deeper and find out which one is a better band!

Is New Order and Joy Division the same?

New Order and Joy Division are not the same, but initially, New Order did share all of the 3 remaining members of Joy Division following the tragic suicide of singer Ian Curtis.

In their career span of 40 years, New Order has experimented with their styles fusing punk with experimental rock, synth-pop, disco, art rock, and dub which many people often called Post-Punk.

To search for a clear answer, I came across various mixed reactions from the fans.

While some supported that if Curtis hadn’t died, Joy Division would have been more popular, on the other hand, many summed up their feelings and said Sumner’s style is way better than Ian’s.

Although, on a more personal level, it sounds an odd comparison since Joy Division only had two studio albums released due to Ian’s death, while New Order has been putting out new music for nearly four decades at this point.

It’s not difficult to see that New Order has undoubtedly had more time to develop themselves musically than Joy Division. The audience got to witness New Order grow and evolve. 

Both the bands have contributed to bringing something vital and fundamental to the punk movement. They were explosive yet minimal, calm, and raw.

For the surviving members, finding a new name allowed them to discover more gut-wrenching music. In a recent article, I have tried to cover what impacts changing their name to New Order brought for Joy Division.

Many call them a reincarnation of Joy Division, but both the bands sound significantly different from each other on various sound, techniques, approaches, style, and methods.

What was Joy Division’s biggest hit?

Joy Division’s best-known song is undoubtedly Love Will Tear Us Apart, which was singer Ian Curtis’ way of dealing with being torn between his wife and his girlfriend one of the struggles that led to his suicide.

The band recorded a total of 53 songs from 1976-1980. Although the group stayed together only for four years before Ian Curtis’s suicide, they produced influential music for future generations.

Aside from Love Will Tear Us Apart, my favorite songs of theirs include:

  1. Dead Souls  (covered by Nine Inch Nails in The Crow soundtrack)
  2. She’s Lost Control 
  3. Isolation 
  4. Transmission
  5. Shadowplay (covered by The Killers)

Joy Division’s first significant musical release was in 1978 EP titled:

An Ideal for Living, catching the attention of the media. At this point, Joy Division has settled on their name but hadn’t honed their trademark style.

Unknown Pleasures, which came in June 1979, best exemplifies their anti-funk grooves and experimental productions, bringing an immersive experience for listeners. Critics appreciated the album for incorporating unusual methods, such as glass breaking.

All Music described the album as “visceral, emotional, and theatrical.”

Although the album wasn’t a commercial success, the music and the lyrics create a more sonic world through eerie synthesizers, distant drums, the strung-out guitars, and some of the most urging vocals that any record label gave.

The Guardian also released a list of Joy Division: all of their songs, ranked!. But the groups’ groundbreaking success came with their debut single, Transmission. It brought them the recognition the band pined for.

Was Joy Division better live than New Order?

Joy Division is irreplaceable, but they were known for being quite sloppy live as was early New Order. New Order didn’t start to become outstanding live performers until Billy Corgan joined the band briefly in 2001 and helped them understand what it took to put on a professional show.

I should know.

As I mentioned at the top, not only have I seen New Order live 4 times (3 of which were in the 80s), but my band opened for them on the Power, Corruption, and Lies tour in 1983.

One show I saw they were playing Blue Monday so poorly that it wasn’t even recognizable until about 4 minutes in. Too much ecstasy was the problem at that particular show.

Departed bassist Peter Hook was also known for being quite antagonistic towards the crowd and sometimes other band members.

He once missed the majority of “In a Lonely Place”, stumbling out towards the end of the song, vomiting into the crowd, and yelling “hello $hitheads!” into the microphone.

And at the show my band opened for in 1983, he kept heckling keyboardist Gillian Gilbert in between songs by continuously saying into the microphone to the audience “guess who we’re waiting on now??”

Bear in mind that was at an era where synthesizers weren’t programmable, so Gillian was having to adjust a lot of controls in between every song; no piece of cake.

So if you often wish you had seen New Order in their “heyday”, don’t fret. They are much better live now than they ever were then.

But as for the stylistic switch from Joy Division to New Order, in his memoir, Chapter and Verse, New Order frontman and guitarist Bernard Sumner remembers opting to change their music direction that would forever change their style.

Bernard talked to Pitchfork and said:

“Our music had become so incredibly dark and cold; we couldn’t get any darker or colder. I remember quite clearly sitting in a club in New York one night, around three or four o’clock in the morning, and thinking how great it would be if we made music, electronic music, that could be played in one of these clubs.” 

The band eschewed heavy guitars and embraced electronics making arguably the most refined records than Joy Division could.

Forty years later, New Order still hits differently when heard live.

There is something about Sumner’s longing vocals and the band’s range to hit different people’s moods at different points. As a result, they are almost always able to sell auditoriums and gross better commercial success.

Has New Order sold more than Joy Division?

For studio albums, New Order has had 8 gold records and 4 silver records. Comparatively, Joy Division only released 2 studio albums, both of which were gold.

Joy Division’s short-spanned career can be credited as the reason behind the comparably lower revenue generation. Looking at the trajectory of the concerts that Joy Division toured, one can see that Joy Division had to cancel a number of their tours due to Ian’s deteriorating health.

Browsing a site, I found the list of concerts that the band had planned to tour but never really completed. Moreover, little was known about the venues that Joy Division intended to play in.

I looked at various sources only to find that Joy Division canceled 38 concerts between 1977-1980. source

On the contrary, According to Song Kick, New Order is touring across four countries as of 2021 and has 26 upcoming tours in 2022. 

The band also stayed in the top 100 Billboard charts from 1987 to 1995 for their consistent performances.

New Order’s 1983 hit “Blue Monday” became the best-selling 12-inch single of all time and a famous club track. In the 1980s, the band released successful albums such as Power, Corruption & Lies (1983), Technique (1989), and the singles compilation Substance (1987), earning millions.

Thus, although people loved Joy Division, New Order has tasted more success due to their active years bringing them more sales.

What was New Order’s biggest hit?

New Order’s biggest hit is Blue Monday which remains the best-selling 12″ single of all time, despite having originally been released in 1983. The original version has sold over 700,000 copies.

But I would be remiss without mentioning a few other big hits for the band, such as:

  • Temptation
  • Bizarre Love Triangle
  • True Faith
  • World in Motion
  • Regret
  • Krafty

It is worth noting that New Order has not had any singles chart since original bassist Peter Hook left in 2007. But their last studio album, 2015’s Music Complete, did get to #2 in the UK.

New Order Live In Berlin (Electronic Beats TV)


It’s not uncommon to see bands coming and disappearing. However, only a few bands as impactful as New Order can sustain the tests of time and make it a success.

Looking back to their humble origins, the band succeeded in evading the shadows of their previous incarnation and proved themselves a worthy successor to Joy Division.

Despite the anticipation that New Order will not be able to escape their past, the band succeeded in creating a space for themselves in the industry.

To be sure, there will always be fans who prefer one over the other. But really, the sound is so different. It’s hard to compare the 2, as only New Order’s 1st album really bears much resemblance to Joy Division.

Photo which requires attribution:

New Order, Chile 2019 by RL GNZLZ is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.

Top Related Posts