This compilation was originally released on LP in 1986. It’s now available on CD for the first time with the addition of two bonus tracks. The original album was an early Best of Death In June, rounding up rare tracks from early singles plus a brace of tracks from the first two LPs.
The collection kicks off with ‘Heaven Street’, one of DIJ’s signature songs. It’s a great example of achieving a lot with limited means. DIJ have always been fiercely independent, and the ‘Heaven Street’s 12″ was the premier release on their own NER label. It’s worth looking at in some detail to see just how this music makes its impact. Although the basic instrumentation is vocals, electric rhythm guitar, electric lead guitar, bass guitar, drums and percussion , the music has an almost electronic sound, due to the heavily processed vocals and lead guitar, and the precise, metronomic drumming. The sound is not a million miles away from Joy Division’s An Ideal for Living EP, but with a more pronounced, almost club-friendly beat.
It’s clear these musicians had built up some studio experience between them, because subtle production touches bring the track to life and create a real atmosphere – and digital remastering allows every last sound to be heard – even down to one of the band members softly humming the verse melody over the closing bars, which I hadn’t noticed before. Sampled voices enter the song in one of the instrumental sections – a nod to Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire and the then new genre of industrial music.
Another key track is ‘Death of the West’, with its implicit critique of American cultural imperialism. The more acoustic sound of this track also points the way forward to the direction DIJ would take once it had become solely a vehicle for Douglas P. (Interestingly enough, Blur would take this dissatisfaction with globalisation into the mainstream of UK pop culture some ten years later, when they declared Modern Life Is Rubbish, and inaugurated the Britpop movement. And by the way, if the reformed Blur ever manage to record a new album, I’m really hoping they’ll call it Modern Life Is Still Rubbish.)
The DIJ faithful will be pleased by the two bonus tracks on offer: ‘Some of Our Best Friends Live in South America’ and ‘Sons of Europe (Slaughtered)’ The former is basically a remix (a little more trippy) of ‘Black Radio’ (from Burial) and was originally published on New Horizons (the long deleted first release on LTM); whilst the latter is a further remix from Burial.
The DVD component of Lesson 1 contains just two songs – ‘Death of the West’s and ‘Heaven Street’. These tracks were filmed at the encore of a DIJ gig in London in 1998, and feature a unique reunion performance by the original DIJ trio of Patrick Leagas, Douglas P and Tony Wakeford. Picture quality is poor by today’s standards, but this is an important historical record, which will be highly prized by fans.
Hardcore DIJ fans will cause a riot in the High Street, knocking each other aside as they scramble to get their mitts on the limited edition version with DVD. Casual DIJ listeners will welcome the chance to pick up some key early tracks on one affordable disc. Students of post-punk will appreciate the chance to hear some of the most Factoryesque stuff never actually released by Factory. And lovers of neofolk can find out from where the genre got its kickstart.