Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures (33 1/3)
Published: May 2004
Publisher: Continuum Publishing Group
Contrary to some reports this book isn't just about the Unknown Pleasures album, although many pages are devoted to the recording of that album and the various songs committed to tape during the UP sessions.
There are plenty of details about how Martin Hannett created the Unknown Pleasures album's unique sound through his "revolutionary" production technique, such as the gadgets he used, etc. A bit technical at times, but interesting nonetheless, even if much of this has been covered in previous publications. We also get the full JD story from the early punk days of Stiff Kittens/Warsaw up until the final days of the band and Ian's suicide.
According to this book Bernard Sumner often refuses to acknowledge that JD were ever known as Warsaw. Rather odd, as it's even stated on the An Ideal For Living 7"EP sleeve - which Barney designed if I'm not much mistaken - that "up until the recording date of this E.P. we were known as WARSAW".
Rather unavoidably, a lot of the information is taken from other sources, in particular Touching From A Distance, which of course offers the best glimpse into Ian's personal life outside of the band.
Ott discusses the reasons behind Ian's suicide and his state of mind, and also tries to place Ian's lyrics into a broader literary context. This review is based on an advance proof copy so minor inaccuracies, like the 1st Peel session having been recorded on 13th rather than 31st of January in 1979, will hopefully have been corrected when the finalised version goes on sale.
Chris Ott has written interesting articles about Joy Division (and others) on Pitchforkmedia.com, but whether his style and approach work as well in a book format of this kind is another matter. Although rather opinionated at times (e.g. Wilderness being the weakest track on Unknown Pleasures? I think not), it's a quick read, and enjoyable for the most part.
The relatively low asking price shouldn't discourage anyone from picking it up. 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.