Legendary bassist Peter Hook recreates the sorrowful sound and ambiance of his former post-punk group, Joy Division, with his most recent creative project. Primarily a cover band, Peter Hook & The Light breathe new life into songs Joy Division fans wouldn’t have thought could be reproduced after the suicide of lead singer and songwriter Ian Curtis more than three decades ago.
To return to the punk scene in the United Kingdom during its heyday is no simple task. Recreating the vocals of the late Curtis presents theoretical and logistical issues.
“I was kind of propelled into the role of frontman when I decided to do the albums and no one else would take on the vocals,” said Hook.
Having only previously played bass and contributed backing vocals on occasion, he described the transition as “extremely daunting,” but claims that as he played more and more as a vocalist, he was able to adjust.
Despite the tremendous task of replacing the legendary singer, Hook’s style is well suited to Joy Division’s early material. The lyrics may remain the same, but the manner in which they are sung is no longer quite as tortured, in fact it’s quite the opposite.The same beautifully haunting quality which made the band so great during the pinnacle of their success back in the mid-1970s remains, but no longer fraught with unhappiness.
The group consists of Hook as the lead vocalist and bass player, his son Jack Bates also on bass, David Potts on guitar, Andy Poole on keyboard and backing vocals, and Paul Kehoe on drums. Although Hook claims that the relationship can sometimes be “quite tense” between him and his son, the enthusiasm Bates brings along with his mastery of the bass far outweighs the occasional disagreement.
Hook’s current group marks a significant turning point, not just in terms of musical style, but personal growth. After only a moment, listeners can ascertain a certain optimism infused into the original sets. Although there haven’t been extensive changes in the lyrics or acoustics, there are subtle differences in the way they are sung.
Inspiration for the ‘The Light’ name came from the aftermath of the tumultuous years of playing with Joy Division. “I felt that a weight had been lifted from my shoulders,” said Hook. This is a clear contrast to his former band name, Joy Division, which was taken from the name for the prostitution wing of a nazi concentration camp mentioned in the 1955 novel The House of Dolls.
The youthful energy and spirit of rebellion, the je ne sais quoi of expressive despair that characterized Joy Division, can never be reproduced. However, their roots can be built upon, and Peter Hook & The Light do an amazing job of reviving the original sets. “As I’ve aged, I’ve mellowed and my sound has got wider and more rounded,” said Hook. This resulted in an audible difference for the songs once performed in such a state of internal turmoil. For those accustomed to the versions performed by the late Ian Curtis, this gives the covers an almost surreal quality.
Hook is keen to perform in Montreal, where he appreciates the thriving music scene. Although this city in 2013 is far from the English punk rock scene of the 1970s, the liveliness and energy replicate it in many ways.
The beauty of the old and the new come together with Peter Hook & The Light. Whether you’re a punk rock enthusiast, die-hard Joy Division fan or simply appreciate good music, Peter Hook & The Light are sure to deliver on all fronts.
Peter Hook & The Light perform at Club Soda on Sept. 18 at 8 p.m.