Joy Division recorded its first John Peel Session in January and second in November of 1979. The group's first full-length release, Unknown Pleasures, would hit the streets between the two -- around the same time Manchester's sewage system collapsed (at least the city had something to celebrate in its hometown band's brilliant debut). The sessions were originally available as separate EPs; the first included the initial four tracks, the second the remaining four. They were rendered somewhat redundant once combined into this recording. Then it too became redundant upon the appearance of the Heart & Soul box set in 1998 and The Complete BBC Recordings two years later. The latter includes all eight tracks plus two others (additional live versions of "Transmission" and "She's Lost Control") recorded for BBC2 in September of the same year, plus a short interview with vocalist Ian Curtis and drummer Stephen Morris from BBC Radio 1. "Exercise One" opens the set with a squeal of feedback and a deep, primal drumbeat. It ends abruptly (and bears a slight resemblance to the short sharp shocks of early Gang of Four). A repeating, high-pitched keyboard pattern distinguishes "Insight," whereas "Love Will Tear Us Apart" is considerably faster than the stately, elegiac single that would be released the following year. The rest of the tracks are fairly straightforward, just a little more raw than the studio versions. Throughout, Curtis sounds as committed to the material as ever, particularly "Transmission" ("Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance/To the radio"), where he sounds as if he could go on forever, singing the same lyrics over and over. It's a hypnotic performance.
AllMusic Review by Kathleen C. Fennessy