photo & text by nacrowe
in the aftermath of the his departure from NEW ORDER, legendary bassist PETER HOOK wrote three books: THE HACIENDA: HOW NOT TO RUN A CLUB (IT BOOKS, 2009), UNKOWN PLEASURES: INSIDE JOY DIVISION (IT BOOKS, 2013) and SUBSTANCE: INSIDE NEW ORDER (SIMON & SCHUSTER, 2017). each tackling a different era of his career, the first tackling the failure of the era-defining MANCHESTER club and by extension FACTORY RECORDS, the second his time in the iconic POST PUNK band JOY DIVISION and his relationship with troubled frontman IAN CURTIS (reviewed HERE).
SUBSTANCE: INSIDE NEW ORDER recounts his time in NEW ORDER, which in terms of years, material output, miles traveled and tours completed, was the focus of the better part of half his life to that point. i won't compare NEW ORDER to JOY DIVISION, in my mind they are separate entities each distinct in their own sound and legacy. like UNKOWN PLEASURES: INSIDE JOY DIVISION, the format HOOK provides includes a narrative based on his experience plus a timeline complete with gigs, product releases, technology utilized and noteworthy events, all annotated and provided promptly at the end of each chapter. it is lovingly done with a knowing nod towards the fanatical, completist nature of his fanbase. much respect to him for that.
what struck me most about this book is the combative relationship between BERNARD SUMNER and PETER HOOK. in JOY DIVISION, both were competitive to a fault but largely acquiesced to the artistic will of IAN CURTIS and producer MARTIN HANNETT. with both of those creative forces now out of the picture early in the NEW ORDER story, there is a brief formative period where new roles are tried on and experimented with, only to calcify later and lead to pugilistic internal dynamic that led to much strife and self-sabotaging. in essence this book is about dysfunction and power.
perhaps it was a toxic masculinity rooted in their upbringing in an economically depressed MANCHESTER during a particularly bleak period where in typical ENGLISH fashion men were expected to just "get on with it" and not express themselves. again and again during crucial fulcrum moments in the narrative when they should have communicated, they just "got on with it" and trudged along blindly, oblivious to the pain inflicted on each other with an almost sadistic delight. for such an iconic group that had a singular sound and reputation for innovation (twice!), they really were individuals at the end of the day worried about their own self interests. to an extent, because even as they were jockeying for power internally, externally they were aware of being ripped off by the greater apparatus, FACTORY RECORDS and their doomed investment in the HACIENDA nightclub. on one hand they had a common mission in the record label and all of the independent ethics that they supposedly stood for, yet at the end of the day this group constantly stabbed each other in the back. or in some cases in the face.
a subplot throughout is HOOK's alcoholism and abuse with hard drugs and eventual recovery with the same tenacity and gusto that got him into them. his departure from NEW ORDER is very much seen as a shedding of his old public persona and identity for a newer one that was sober and awake to what was happening around him. his work in PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT is representative of that new positive focus, away from the codependency and dictatorial whims of SUMNER. and on SUMNER, he comes off looking really bad in this book. repeatedly described as a dark cloud who poisoned the atmosphere among the crew and support staff as well as suffering mightily from LSD (lead singer's disease). i'm looking forward to reading his account to see how he describes HOOK.
in the end like all fans, HOOK's melodic bass-lines is a defining feature of NEW ORDER, as well as JOY DIVISION. its hard to swallow the idea that his participation in albums were not prominent and often sidelined, especially on post-REPUBLIC. its mind-boggling to entertain the idea that his bass-lines weren't viewed as an asset or even necessary internally in their camp. just unbelievable. to me its his bass, SUMNER's voice and the ingenious use of synths that distinguish them from their peers.
in summation, this is a long book (over 700 pages) but it went quickly thanks to HOOK's strong narrative voice and wicked sense of humor. very dry. very ENGLISH. the sardonic tone was similar to that of the ERIC IDLE memoir ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE (BROADWAY BOOKS, 2018) i reviewed recently (linked HERE) and definitely had me laughing at several times throughout, usually at his own expense. in a way, that self-effacing humor only makes you trust his perspective that much more, although again im waiting to read the SUMNER book in all fairness.
great informative, invigorating read on one of the most interesting bands in modern music history. a must-read for anyone interested in PUNK ROCK, POST PUNK, NEW WAVE, ELECTRONIC MUSIC or technology in music as well.