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« June 21, 2013

Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division

Back when punk rock got really loud
Review by Richard Whittaker

Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division

by Peter Hook
It/Harper Collins, 416 pp., $27.99

Proto-electro, proto-goth, post-punk; whatever you called Joy Division, bassist Peter Hook seemed the leather-clad outrider. He was also their rock and biggest fan. From when their best reviews were for Hooky's hat to the transformation into New Order, he kept every receipt, ticket, and set list, pouring them from the tour bus onto the page. The death of Ian Curtis inevitably hangs over the tale, but Hooky doesn't attempt revisionism of the artist legend. Instead, he shows both sides of Curtis' coin, tortured genius versus the Northern English working-class kid who laughed at farts. The real meat is in the never-ending tension with his oldest ally and bitterest adversary, guitarist Bernard Sumner, aka Barney Rubble. The Lennon and McCartney of the Eighties, they were the band's basis and downfall. That's what Hooky understands: that Joy Division was all contradictions. The sound was exquisite but untrained. They couldn't always stand each other, but they'd smack anyone who crossed them. Keyboards were their success and downfall. Even how he wore his bass – slung low, in rock-god style – was accidental. It's what the Sex Pistols taught them: You don't have to be good to be great.

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