IMG_20150418_005158This past weekend, Miami saw Peter Hook and the Light take the stage at Grand Central to perform the music of Joy Division. It marked the start of their Southeastern U.S. tour, which features the band playing opening act to themselves with the music of New Order before playing Joy Division’s two albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer in their entirety. It was a longtime coming, seeing as the original Joy Division never made a tour of the U.S. due to the shocking suicide of the band’s lead singer, Ian Curtis, in 1980.

OK, so this incarnation only features Joy Division’s original bassist. Still, even though it was far from the original Joy Division line-up, no former member of the Manchester post-punk act could have pulled off a tribute better. Hook took vocal duties for Curtis, and his baritone was an excellent match. There was an additional bassist on stage, Jack Bates, who traded parts with the frontman, though Hook had some key moments to solo on his bass in his signature style: down low on his fret board. It worked especially well during the opening set of select New Order songs to get the crowd warmed up. Hook’s voice, however, was a poor stand-in for New Order’s singer Bernard Sumner. A drunk guy singing along in the crowd behind me sounded better.

This opening set included some prime cuts from the late ’80s New Order, including tracks from Low Life and Brotherhood. Guitarist David Potts took vocals on one song, which fit the set better (sorry, Hooky). Rounding out the band was Andy Poole on keyboards and Paul Kehoe on drums. The band was super tight, although the levels weren’t great at the start, with drums dominating over the melodies. Still, the live show was incredibly faithful. As such, none of the original IMG_20150418_004530members were missed. It was a marvelous performance that really felt like a celebration of the music. Hook ate up the adulation of the crowd, which included many who donned variations of Joy Division and New Order T-shirts. Hook showed no shame in embracing his star appeal, putting himself on display at the edge of the stage on more than one occasion to give the audience as close a view as possible of his playing key parts of many songs.

I spoke to him a few weeks earlier for an article in the Miami New Times. Speaking via phone from his second home in Mallorca, Hook explained his group has spent a longtime with the music. They have been performing much of it since 2010, when he formed The Light to pay tribute to the music of Joy Division in the band’s hometown of Manchester on the 30th anniversary of Curtis’ passing. Eventually a tour resulted, as did tours and performances of New Order’s albums, including Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies. Now comes the 35th anniversary of Curtis’ death. Peter Hook and the Light have already performed West and East Coast tours of the U.S. featuring Joy Division’s music. This current tour marks their first southern US tour.

When I spoke to Hook about his status in New Order, he was pretty blunt about the relationship: he only communicates with his former mates through lawyers. “They masquerade as New Order now, which I disagree with because they aren’t New Order. It’s like me calling myself Joy Division. That’sIMG_20150418_004207 how I look at it. I wouldn’t have the gall to do it. But I suppose that’s what happens when you bring out a group like Bad Lieutenant that flopped so badly, and then you have a massive financial recession.” The latter is a jab at Sumner trying to start a band outside of New Order with Bad Lieutenant, which released an album in 2009 that only made it to number 70 on the U.K. pop charts.

You can read more regarding his feelings about New Order as well as his reflection on Curtis in this article for the Miami New Times, which appeared in print last week. Jump through the headline below:

Peter Hook on Former Band, New Order: “What They Did to Me Was Disgusting”

We also spoke about Peter Murphy, the frontman of Bauhaus, who, when I spoke to him in 2013, had this to say about Joy Division: “Bauhaus Was the Seminal Moment in That Time; Joy Division Was Not” (click through the quote for more on that). After reading that article, Hook seemed to laugh it off. “I know him very well,” he offered. “I just read, actually, the bass player [David J] from Bauhaus’s book, and Peter, unfortunately, does not come across very well, and in that book, I must say, there does seem to be a lot of lead singer syndrome, and what he said about Joy Division in your article just simply isn’t true, is it?”

Murphy had been playing “Transmission,” a Joy Division song, live for many years. He was going to play it in Miami, but scratched it off his set list that night. Maybe my article had something to do with it. Again, Hook was amused and said there is no bad blood between them. He said, “I mean, it’s funny. I’ve known him over the years quite a lot because some of our road crew used to work for him. I’ve seen him quite a lot … He asked me on stage before that article to play ‘Transmission’ with him, when I DJed with him. He’s been playing Joy Division songs for a long time.”

Hook did relay that he met Murphy under some rather comic circumstances, having kicked him out of a Manchester club when he was a bouncer where Murphy was slated to perform with Bauhaus. You can read about that incident and more in this article on the Miami New Times Music blog:

Peter Hook on Joy Division Versus Bauhaus: “They Were a Bit Gothy Glam”

Peter Hook and the Light continue their tour in the south with a show in Atlanta tomorrow. For more tour dates, which concludes the America tour with a visit to Mexico City, visit this link. Some U.K. dates will follow after this tour.

Hans Morgenstern

All photos taken by Igor Shteyrenberg at Miami’s Grand Central, April 10, 2015.

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Last year I celebrated a variety of bands performing in Miami in September. I offered nary a follow-up because I wound up in the ER with a slipped disc in my back. I could hardly walk, much less stand at a rock show. Some tickets went in the trash and guest list invites went to waste. One of the bands I did not even mention as performing around that time was rumored to have had put on a good show. Glad to see Modern English will make a repeat appearance at Miami’s Grand Central at the end of this September.

Though popularly known as a one-hit wonder for the song “I’ll Melt With You,” Modern English emerged from the final breaths of the pioneering post-punk indie rock scene of pre-1980 UK. For me, I feel the strongest song in their catalog is one of their first. “Gathering Dust” was released as a 7-inch by 4AD Records in 1980:

It’s a far cry from the group’s 1983 New Wave pop hit “I’ll Melt With You.” The song includes the best characteristics of post punk, revealing influences from Joy Division to David Bowie, but also escalating them to more dramatic heights of noisy, layered fuzz that pre-dates the noise pop of My Bloody Valentine. The high-pitched bass line owes an obvious debt to Joy Division, as the processed sound of a ticking cymbal and what sounds like the pulse of a dial tone fizz and hum in the background. The ebb and flow of a wispy, gleaming synthetic wind fades in, adding a luscious metallic quality lifted from the B-side of David Bowie’s 1977 album “Heroes,” as the rhythm section shifts to double time with a bouncier bass and the more percussive sound of toms.

The song breaks through another wall, reaching layers of pre-dream pop din as layers of roaring guitars and brawny synths pile up. Singer Robbie Grey’s thick English accent is barely intelligible throughout, terse and emphatic, sounding more like Colin Newman of Wire. I do not care, after all these years, that I do not know or understand what he is singing. His voice is folded deep into the cacophony of wrestling instruments featuring driving pseudo horns and piercing guitars, adding to the song’s enigmatic dreamy quality.

When the song appeared as the opener to their debut 1981 album Mesh and Lace, nothing on that album felt as dynamic or atmospheric. Not that the album’s bad. It actually has a dark edge that betrays the character of that other single the mainstream so easily defines the band with. However, for me, “Gathering Dust,” is the one hit Modern English should be celebrated for.

Hans Morgenstern

Modern English performs at Grand Central, 697 North Miami Ave Miami, FL 33136, Friday, Sept. 28 with Axe and the Oak supporting. Doors open at 10 p.m. The show is for those 18 and over. For tickets, jump through this link.

(Copyright 2012 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

I’m not sure if the irony of this post’s  headline will be apparent to those unfamiliar with Joy Division and New Order’s place in the history of the UK punk and post punk scene, but there was once a time when the members of New Order went out of their way to disassociate themselves with their former band, Joy Division. Now comes the first official compilation placing both bands’ songs on one CD. Last week, Rhino Records UK announced the release of Total: From Joy Division to New Order (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the album on

New Order represent a sad reality many successful independent bands are destined to fulfill. Dissolved since its last desperate attempt for relevance that was 2005’s Waiting for the Siren’s Call (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the album on… as cheap as .25 cents on CD as of this post!) for Warner Bros. Records, the band now has a new retrospective compilation that also includes its past as Joy Division. A US release will surely soon follow, but as of this post, is only offering the UK version to US customers.

There have been countless repackages and reissues of New Order and Joy Division albums, outtakes, obscure live shows and hits since the late eighties, enough that I stopped caring after the release of 1995’s Best of New Order (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the CD on The cynicism just sapped my interest in the group. I now hardly ever even revisit their albums.

Once New Order achieved a new status of popularity in the early eighties with the appearance of “Blue Monday” in the dance clubs, the Manchester band transcended its ghost of Joy Division, essentially New Order without keyboardist Gillian Gilbert and vocalist/guitarist Bernard Sumner as Bernard Albrecht on only guitars while singer Ian Curtis took the mic (Curtis would hang himself before Joy Division embarked on their first US tour in 1980, leaving the remaining members to continue as New Order).

I remember the days in the late eighties when it seemed almost like heresy to include “In a Lonely Place,” a song written in the Joy Division days, on New Order’s first retrospective, Substance (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the album on The year after its release, New Order’s label released a separate Substance album for Joy Division’s music (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the album on This happened well into its career as a major label act on then Warner Bros. subsidiary label Qwest Records, owned by Quincy Jones. Before that, after Curtis had killed himself, the surviving band members genuinely struggled with how to carry on. They decided to move on under a new band name and even traded vocals on their debut, 1981’s Movement (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the album on, which still captured most of the gloom Joy Division had been known for.

With the passage of time, it has grown apparent the band itself has grown more cynical with the music business. Long gone are the days when they would release records without any credit to the individual musicians, much less included the lyrics to their songs. Now come the days when integrity to art no longer matters over a quick buck. Do not get me started on the decision by the band’s bassist, Peter Hook, to tour and even re-record Joy Division’s music, a move well documented by the UK’s NME. The dude could never even sing.

Maybe it’s a way for these aging post-punkers to come to terms with their growing irrelevance and mortality, but I feel it taints the legacy and mystery that had preceded their early work. It trivializes it all. For its audience, Curtis’ decision to off himself allowed for the ultimate artistic statement regarding a music movement Joy Division is often attributed of pioneering: Gothic rock. Though, I am sure, for those personally involved it is a much more private and painful matter. But dragging it out more than five years after New Order’s final, failed album is the pathetic equivalent to beating a dead horse. There is something so much nobler about letting this horse rest.

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

With the American, Anton Corbijn follows up his debut feature Control, a movie about Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, with a thriller far removed from the music world where he first made his name. It seemed odd that an artist so attached to music (Corbijn has been involved in rock photography, album art and music video for over 30 years) would all of a sudden turn to directing no one less than George Clooney in a suspense movie, yet Corbijn hinted as much in an interview promoting Control back in 2007. “I’d like to do another film, an action film with more tension, a thriller, if you like,” he told

Corbijn has indeed delivered on that, but he has stayed true to the slow-paced seventies-era feel of Control, which felt like an animated version of his many photographs of Joy Division. It certainly seems ironic, having started his moving image career making music videos for that thing that revolutionized movies, MTV. It turns out Corbijn has produced a film that goes against the tropes of what many expect of a contemporary thriller. Despite the A-list Hollywood actor fronting the American this film comes from a world of the more atmospheric cinema of European cinema (Corbijn is Dutch after all) and, again, the seventies (just look at the poster art that seems to recall the feeling of films like 1974’s the Parallax View). The American fills a viewer up like a fine and tenderly cooked meal, instead of the usual greasy junk from Hollywood that only tastes good in the mouth, but soon enough makes you want to throw up.

There is a mesmerizing pace to the American. Corbijn allows the camera to linger longer on the takes, impregnating the scenes with emotional and psychological depth. You get a chance to watch the actors act, whereas current Hollywood directors would take the easier way out with tightly associated cuts on focused images (see Michael Bay). Corbijn goes against this sort of lamebrain manipulation that insults the intelligence of the audience to make a rich experience, and Clooney adapts to the pace with amazing skill. As Jack, the titular American with a shady past, Clooney invites the audience in to his character’s thoughts, a dark place to venture as the film lays out in a sudden burst of violence at the very start.

Clooney plays Jack, an agent with an unnamed organization, whose business is killing. He sets out for that all-too-familiar last job. His assignment takes him to a small, labyrinthine Italian village where he falls for a prostitute (Violante Placido), who returns the sentiment, and befriends a priest (Paolo Bonacelli), who himself knows about walking that difficult line of morality. Even though Jack is all too familiar with the dangers of becoming emotionally attached to innocents, try as he might, he can help but accept these souls into his life during a job that inevitably proves very risky.

As great a performance Clooney unleashes on the screen, Corbijn deserves the credit for giving this story, based on Martin Booth’s novel A Very Private Gentleman, the respect it deserves as a satisfying thriller. There are five or six distinct moments of pulse-pounding action, which could never be as thrilling as they turn out to be had they not been sandwiched between deliberate moments of stillness, hence the film’s dynamic, almost musical quality.

Most key are scenes where Corbijn lets the camera linger. During these moments, Corbijn composes images not unlike the photography with which he first made his name. They are images that play with light and dark and focus on a subject who carries a weighty presence. Corbijn’s blog where the still image at left is taken from, features more still images he took on the set. They have been compiled in the companion photo book, Inside the American.

Appropriately, and very much like a European movie, the dialogue in the American is very sparse. Some might fault the film for this, saying it results in little character development and a confusing plot. But there is something to be said for the mystery it invites. Hollywood movies are so caught up with exposition, it can sap the mood out of a film. What Corbijn does is impregnate his images with a delicious sense of mystery that offers to stimulate the mind instead of deaden it, as most action pics oblige themselves to do.

Who knows how well this film will do ahead of the Labor Day weekend, where viewers will also have the choice to see Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, a take on another kind of 70s film: the decidedly less cerebral exploitation film. I doubt the American will even surpass the Expendables, the Sylvester Stallone ensemble action flick that had dominated the box office two weeks in a row. No wonder Focus Features has decided to open the film a couple of days before the weekend. For those who want their action served with some intelligence and a deeper sense of atmosphere, there is always the American, and God bless Corbijn for coming up with that alternative.

The American opens in wide release this Wednesday and is rated R.

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)