LIVE REVIEW: Peter Hook & The Light @ Metro Theatre


Peter Hook & The Light @ Metro Theatre, Sydney, October 2nd 2017

Ten days after announcing a settlement with the rest of New Order concerning his use of various New Order and Joy Division assets on merchandising and in the promotion of shows by his new band, Peter Hook returned to Australia for a tour that honours the legacy of both acts, but for this particular show, primarily Joy Division.

Three sets and no support – no-one can accuse Hooky of shortchanging the fans or not putting on a totally professional show. They warmed up with a set of seven New Order songs. There  was little in the way of the hits, instead he went for album and EP deep cuts such as In A Lonely Place, Dreams Never End and Procession. It was a low key and somewhat tentative start that felt like a warmup for what was to come. By the time they hit Age Of Consent the band and audience had warmed to the occasion and the anticipation of Joy Division albums Closer and Unknown Pleasures, in full, was firmly established.

The Light were excellent at recreating the sound of Joy Division, the primitive synth the human/machine drumming of Stephen Morris and the dense guitar churn and simple melodic guitar lines. With two bassists in the band, Hooky had the freedom to play when he chose, clearly finding it easier to concentrate on the vocals without having to play at the same time. Vocally he nailed it, channeling Ian Curtis and his tone and intonations but adding a bit of Hooky rock bravado. Isolation, the dark and moody Heart and Soul and the even more desolate yet beautiful grandeur of The Eternal were particular highlights.

Unknown Pleasures, now something of an iconic symbol of post punk and the dystopian end of the 70s, sounded a lot better in that the songs are dynamically more fluid and intense. Hooky paced the stage, pulled low-slung bass moves and stared out across the audience, surprisingly making no comments between songs. It was a powerful rendering of a classic album with Shadowplay and Day Of The Lords as high-points. Returning for a brilliant three song encore of Atmosphere (dedicated to the tragedy in Las Vegas), Transmission and an exultant Love Will Tear us Apart before Hooky tore off his shirt, bowed to the crowd and strode off victorious.

Chris Familton

FEATURE: Why So Glum?

by Chris Familton

In both popular and fringe culture the dark has been rising steadily over the last decade and it is showing no signs of retreating into the shadows. Fascination with death, ghosts, the dark arts and melancholy have always been important signifiers of all art forms yet this current trend in Hollywood movies and in many musical genres is tantamount to a gothic renaissance.

At the mass consumption end of the scale much credit must go to films like the Harry Potter and Twilight series for kicking off the current trend. They set the scene for the current popularity of TV shows like True Blood, The Walking Dead and American Horror Story with networks embracing death, blood, evil spirits and serial killers. If the theory of art reflecting society is anything to go by then the financial turbulence of recent years is surely a factor in the current popularity of these shows.

Musically the heyday, if not the origins of goth can be traced to the early 80s and bands like The Cure, Bauhaus, The Sisters of Mercy and Joy Division. Many of the groups dismissed the goth tag, much preferring to be called post punk as most emerged from the late 70s UK punk scene yet their music shared tendencies of claustrophobia, rumination on the dark and morbid side of the human psyche and with visual images that embraced very little colour there was generally a look to go with it. The sound those bands created has filtered through to acts of today, some thirty years later, whether it be the darkwave electronica of Light Asylum, Zola Jesus and Austra or guitar bands like Ceremony, The Horrors and Interpol. Most interestingly the cross pollination with synth pop, shoegaze and and dream pop has allowed new versions of the goth/post punk to emerge.

Every music scene is based on action and reaction so in this age of pop music where everything is increasingly saturated in synthetic gloss it is only natural that those with a disdain for manufactured happiness and more inclined to embrace melancholy will find music like this to suit their tastes.  Of course how we label any type of music and how we group its fans is just a symptom of how we like to categorise things but the fascinating thing about the current taste for the dark side is the extent to which it has permeated the mainstream and doesn’t look like giving up the ghost anytime soon.

this piece was first published in Drum Media

ALBUM REVIEW: Joy Division/New Order | TOTAL

written by Chris Familton

The story of Joy Division’s journey from post punk pioneers through the tragic suicide of frontman Ian Curtis and the subsequent and unexpected reincarnation as New Order is one that has been told many times over the decades. As far as legends go theirs is a classic tale of innocence, disaster and resurrection and though it has been romanticised to some extent through books, films and word of mouth it is a truly remarkable story.

TOTAL is yet another attempt at anthologising Joy Division and New Order though few have had the foresight to combine both bands in one document. The result is an album that intriguingly captures the evolution of five musicians while at the same time laying out the decline of their stock from a certain point around the end of the 80s. Joy Division have five tracks on the album while New Order contribute thirteen, an aspect of unbalance indeed. Most likely the compilers wanted a full career retrospective, sacrificing quality for a complete career arc.

Each of Joy Division’s tracks are absolute classics that define a time of disillusionment, post punk experimentation and the intellectual embrace of dark thoughts. Their incorporation of synth drums and cold, isolationist settings gives the songs an alien and glacial atmosphere with Curtis’ voice intoning deep and magnificently over the top. As important as Curtis’ voice is the bass playing of Peter Hook with his rhythmic approach that by its pure originality and melodic inventiveness supplanted the guitar as the dominant stringed instrument in the band. Love Will Tear Us Apart has become a definitive anthem but as important are the jerky nihilism of She’s Lost Control and the heavy, clouded mood of Atmosphere.

The transition into New Order and the addition of Gillian Gilbert on synths feels like new dawn, the emergence of the band, blinking into the sunlight of the 80s. Ceremony is a natural evolution from Joy Division but from Temptation on you can hear the band gaining confidence in their new direction with an increased optimism in the guitar work of Bernard Sumner and a rhythmic brightness to Stephen Morris’ drumming. New Order is arguably their greatest moment with its robotic drumming and the full embrace of the decade’s futuristic technology. It changed the way this writer listened to music as an eleven year old and introduced many to electronic music. Once New Order realised they had found themselves as a band they continued to write brilliant songs that married technology, traditional structures and mood. The Perfect Kiss is ebullient while still retaining its edge among its prog-tronic changes. Bizarre Love Triangle epitomises the pinnacles of 80s synth pop and compared to Joy Division it has a positively saccharine sweet glow.

The cracks began to appear around the Pet Shop Boys sounding True Faith and the lazy overkill of Fine Time. Then it was a descent into football theme songs and electro rock. The last gasp of Crystal showed signs there was still some magic but it proved to be too little too late as the turn of the century signposted the end of an era for a band(s) that had managed to stay contemporary and of the times for two decades. Listen to the first eleven tracks on TOTAL and you will experience a mastercraft of relentless inventiveness charting the brilliant evolution of a seminal band who went from amateurs to auteurs before our ears.

this review was first published on The Dwarf.