Joy Division bassist delivers ‘Pleasure'-able read
Published: Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 11:23 a.m.
Joy Division played only three years' worth of gigs and released a whopping total of two studio albums.
Still, in that limited window of time, the four 20-somethings from Britain helped change the landscape of post-punk rock, exerting influence not only on contemporaries such as U2 and The Cure, but also playing a role in spurring the '80s-era alternative rock movement.
The band was known for its dark, minimalist sound and the introspective, poetic lyrics of its enigmatic frontman, Ian Curtis, who committed suicide in May 1980, just as Joy Division was set to embark on its first tour of the U.S.
The three remaining members of the group — guitarist Bernard Sumner, drummer Stephen Morris and bassist Peter Hook — carried on as New Order.
Even as the trio found success without Curtis, though, his memory never was far from them.
And, now, three decades later, Hook has come forward with his recollections of that tumultuous period.
Yes, "Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division" provides a detailed history of the band — pretty much what you'd find in any music biography.
But what sets Hook's memoir apart is its painful honesty and well-positioned focus on Curtis, who is, without a doubt, the star of the show (and the book).
"We were individuals, me, Steve and Bernard," Hook writes. "The glue that held us together, the driving force of the band, was Ian."
It may sound strange to read that, considering the critical and popular success the lads enjoyed following Curtis' passing, but the pages of "Unknown Pleasures" are filled with equal parts reverence for him and regret over what could have been done to prevent his demise.
"This book is as much about him as it is me," Hook writes of Curtis, who struggled through medical, financial and romantic upheaval throughout Joy Division's lifespan.
The passages that detail the singer's battle with epilepsy are particularly stirring.
The book is truly a pleasurable read, but the reasons are far from unknown.
For Joy Division purists, Hook doesn't hold back. The pages ooze with tales of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, all told in the author's plain-spoken, if not coarse, style.
"Unknown Pleasures" works on a completely different level, though. At its core, the book is more character study than band bio.
And for that, the pleasure is all ours.