- Series: 33 1/3 (Book 9)
- Paperback: 136 pages
- Publisher: Continuum (March 31, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0826415490
- ISBN-13: 978-0826415493
- Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.4 x 6.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 29 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #490,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures (Thirty Three and a Third series) Paperback – March 31, 2004
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A new entry is a series about famous LPs. Welcome is Ott's appreciation of Unknown Pleasures, Joy Division's debut album (a work of "unparalleled drama and scope," Ott raves). The short-lived English band's career was short-circuited by lead singer Ian Curtis' suicide not long after recording Unknown Pleasures. Ott describes Joy Division's musical approach and re-creates its frenetic and distinctive stage shows in a manner that should satisfy those who remember the band, and possibly bring it new fans.
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“Chris Ott writes about the record with a chilly elegance that evokes the austerity of the music itself.” –The Boston Phoenix, 7/8/04 (Mike Miliard)
"Once Ott forgoes the facts and gives in to his passion, he brings the reader closer to the band's 'unparalleled gravity and grandeur.'" —San Francisco Bay Guardian, 5/19/04
"New fans will find it to be a useful introduction to the band as it details their story from the very beginning to the tragic end. Even the more dedicated fan might be interested in reading another person's opinions about the different songs, the importance of JD's music, and why the band still plays an important role in the history of alternative music." -Joy Division website, 5/24/04
“Compelling and so despairing that at one point I had to stop reading it for a bit. ” –Alternative Weekly, 6/10/04
“Joy Division’s gestation period is competently recounted in the narrative and each important individual is dealt with fairly. Including Hannett and Wilson. Ott’s approach and reaction to his subject is commendably unflinching. Well written.” – Jason Dropor, Record Collector, October 2004 (Jason Dropor)
"Though the recording of the album is naturally the centerpiece of the book, (Ott) delves enough into the evolution of the band and background events leading up to the recording of said album (as well as certain post-album events leading up to Ian's suicide) to properly provide context for said rekkid….you don't have to be a regular gear-rag reader to understand what he's talking about….overall recommended." David Hill, Shredded Paper Magazine, Fall 2004 issue
"Throwing format to the wind, "Pleasures" goes to town on the ban's entire oeuvre. Ott is admiring, but his love for the group doesn't keep him from letting them look the fool when appropriate—and it's his way into the head of bandleader Ian Curtis, who might have survifed his all-great-artists-die-young illusions if some concrete afflictions (epilepsy and the drugs required to tame it, for instance) didn't piggyback onto the ones he invented for himself. A-" —Austin American-Statesman, 10/17/04
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I confess that of their two albums proper, I prefer Closer (Reis) (Exp), which is less studio-gimmicky and, well, more depressing in its tone and atmosphere (and Atmosphere), but Unknown Pleasures is a pretty impressive album in its own right. Ott does a nice job of giving us a sense of how special this album and this band were, with a special focus on the way that they transformed themselves, in what was really a pretty short period of time, from what (based upon the recordings extant) was a pretty dire punk band, frankly, into a one of the most influential and singular bands of the post-punk era. And rightly so. Joy Division were a monolith, really. I admit, too, that I never much cared for New Order.
Ott also does a pretty nice job of giving a thumbnail view of JD in the studio and he is meticulous in presenting their recorded output, including session dates, various releases, who / what / when / and where. He also does a nice job of explaining what Martin Hannett brought to the party in the studio (and how he adjusted after Unknown Pleasures on the singles, and Closer, that followed).
Where he is weaker, I think, is in his presentation of the band as Ian Curtis and, um, some other guys. No one else in the book emerges as more than a two-dimensional presence. Heck, other than Peter Hook, who gets a few quotes off, no one else gets even two dimensions. While certainly Curtis' vocals, lyrics and stage presence were obviously major determining factors of Joy Division, and the major factor in the IMAGE of Joy Division, the other guys would seem to have had a little something to do with the band and its music.
And his treatment of Curtis is somewhat problematic. His portrait of his inner turmoil, his pompousness, his struggles to both deal with and accept his epilepsy (not to mention his marriage) are noble, he too often, and easily, falls into the "tortured genius" mode while insisting that Curtis was NOT a tortured genius. Thought he was, you know, tortured, um, and a genius. This is not meant to in any way diminish Curtis' life, inner struggles, or death, it ultimately feels pat to me - there's no real answer, but here is the answer.
All in all, the book is a mixed bag, but worthy of the series and a useful read. Ultimately, it sends me back to a wonderful record I hadn't listened to in a while, makes me reflect on it and appreciate it all over again. That's useful.