Wednesday, 18 March 2015
That's enough with the Johnny stuff for now.
I've been listening to Joy Division recently, not just the singles but Unknown Pleasures and Closer. I find I have to be in the right place, to be receptive, to listen to them. Closer especially. It's difficult to listen to Closer and not dwell on the fact that, particularly with the lyrics, the man singing the songs killed himself in the few months between finishing recording it and it being released.
Both albums are masterpieces musically, a band punching its way out of punk, with the assistance and oversight of production genius Martin Hannett. But specifically I've been listening to Peter Hook's basslines, which are in a class of their own. Entirely self-taught, he wrote more killer basslines than the rest of the post-punk bassists combined. Hooky borrowed and stole and then made something new. His look was cribbed from Paul Simonon's extra long strap and his sound from seeing The Stranglers and then buying the same amp set up as Jean Jacques Burnel. The playing developed from his and Bernard's discovery of how to play together. Unable to hear himself above Bernard's riffing in the early days with poor equipment, he played the higher notes and gained a completely distinctive style. I think it also came from being self-taught and not having served any kind of apprenticeship in standard blues-rock bands. There are no walking basslines, no follow-the-guitarist-just-playing-the root-notes stuff. The basslines in many Joy Division songs are the songs, the lead instrument, the melody.
Digital is a thrilling descending and ascending three note riff. Isolation has a fast two note riff with two alternating high and low ones after the main phrase, set against Bernard's toy synth and goes straight to heart of it, Closer's most instant song. The bass notes to Disorder, the opener on Unknown Pleasures, set the tone of the whole record. Shadowplay's bass riff is genuinely threatening, tense, menacing. A Means To An End is repetitive, circling heavy-disco before it grinds to an unsettling halt. Peter Hook- I salute you.