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Unknown Pleasures (33⅓ #9)

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  490 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
Joy Division's career has often been shrouded by myths. But the truth is surprisingly simple: over a period of several months, Joy Division transformed themselves from run-of-the-mill punk wannabes into the creators of one of the most atmospheric, disturbing, and influential debut albums ever recorded. Chris Ott carefully picks apart fact from fiction to show how Unknown P ...more
Paperback, 117 pages
Published March 31st 2004 by Continuum International Publishing Group
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Unknown Pleasures by Peter Hook24-Hour Party People by Tony    WilsonThe Haçienda by Peter HookFactory Records by Matthew RobertsonWho Killed Martin Hannett? by Colin Sharp
Factory Records
32 books — 3 voters
Let's Talk About Love by Carl WilsonIn the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Kim CooperExile on Main St. by Bill JanovitzDummy by R.J. WheatonDusty in Memphis by Warren Zanes
125 books — 52 voters

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Community Reviews

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Jan 21, 2013 Mariel rated it liked it
Recommends it for: and we could dance!
Recommended to Mariel by: his very flight is prescence
I've had the promise and confessions of true faith.

I once heard some thing about babies responding to the music video for New Order's "True Faith". It's better than The Teletubbies kind of thing. I remember some thing that kids loved Teletubbies because of the repetition or reinforcement of ideas. They probably liked the colors and how the rabbits were giants. I have something in my head about the video that's big sumo type of Tetris game people like when you play a game too long and you keep pl
Jul 11, 2013 Sarah rated it liked it
Was a pretty dry (even though informative and factual) read - but I did enjoy the glimpse into how recording techniques and the invention of synthesizers evolved during this time. I think I was hoping for the book to be emotional/melodramatic, much like the album and Ian. While in some ways I think I already knew, I was still surprised to read how some of my favourite artists (The Cure) were inspired by Joy Division, and not the other way around.

I also ended up looking up some old recordings on
Jul 08, 2007 Brendan rated it liked it
Recommends it for: joy division fanatics
i find the 33 1/3 series touch & go - for instance the Ok Computer one was abysmal, but i liked this one. didn't love it unfortunately. its a pretty straightforward, chronological account of the band thru the recording of the 1st record. he throws in a little exegesis, but, maybe since so much overwrought stuff has been written about the band/Ian Curtis he's trying to keep his toes on the right side of the line. i find it a little too conservative, but you can't help but marvel at Curtis' ly ...more
Jul 19, 2012 Morgane rated it liked it
A factual, straight-forward account of the rise of Joy Division up until Ian Curtis's suicide. I wouldn't call it an exciting read, but definitely informative. Though it somehow made Joy Division seem more juvenile/immature than they sound. This didn't seem to be Ott's intention at all, but by glossing right over the creative process, he took away all the depth the band had.

I still prefer "Closer" over "Unknown Pleasures" though.
Josh Yule
May 22, 2009 Josh Yule rated it it was amazing
looks cheesey but it is so well writen and informative, even for the not so big fan. Quick read too!
Apr 06, 2014 Jon rated it really liked it
A good introduction to Joy Division and Unknown Pleasures. I doubt there's much here that die-hard fans didn't already know, but that's to be expected. The point of a book in a series like this isn't necessarily to expose radically new information, so much as introduce people to an easily digestible and focused reflection on the band and their album. While Ott wanders beyond Unknown Pleasures a bit more than I would have liked, he does a good job of using the album as an anchor, or vital entry p ...more
Nov 17, 2009 Scott rated it liked it
It took me forever, but I finally polished off this bad-boy. It only spent like, what?, 4 years on my "to-read" shelf, followed by at least another few months in "currently-reading?" Anyway, at some point many moons back, a notion I can no longer recall motivated me to finally grab this off the shelf...only to have it end up in a pile of magazines next to my bed (these books are so tiny!), where it sat for many more months. Every now and then it would fight its way back to the surface, at which ...more
East Bay J
Dec 18, 2013 East Bay J rated it liked it
The premise behind this series of books is that someone writes a long essay about a particular LP, giving history and insights and so forth. I've heard many in the series are terrible, but Chris Ott's analysis of Unknown Pleasures isn't too bad. It's very straightforward and reasonably well written, although there is a large amount of the editorializing I find so frustrating in writings about music. I do believe there's a way to discuss meaning, impact and value in music without expressing too m ...more
Jan 18, 2011 Matt rated it did not like it
I really like this album and I was hoping the author would have some new insight into why this one is personally relevant to him. He didn't. This book gives you unending lines of audio engineering notes and locations of the various studios they recorded each of the tracks. Everything you need to know about Ian Curtis you probably read in his ex-wife Deborah's book, saw in the excellent biopic "Control" and the enjoyable documentary or just heard from other Joy Division fans. Getting into this ba ...more
Dragan Nanic
Jan 06, 2014 Dragan Nanic rated it it was ok
Shelves: 33-1-3
Is it possible to be a Joy Division fan without succumbing to Ian Curtis mythology? Apparently not, and this book is no exception.

Though author tried to avoid it for the better part he only managed to fall into dry listing of chronology in which even events like Ian running around in the rehearsal room with a bucket on his head make no impression nor inspire emotion. Barely few facts are new in this book - it mostly caters to the hardcore devotees comparing every possible rendition of the songs
D.S. Mattison
May 08, 2008 D.S. Mattison rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: JD fans
Never before paid such close attention to the left/right divide of my headphones until reading this essay. Having read Touching From a Distance by Deborah Curtis and watched a number of informative films regarding the Factory Records/Joy Division situation, I was surprised by Ott's sing along style of analysis. He seems to say the same thing as everyone else: Ian Curtis was an unrealized genius and sadly took his life because he couldn't deal with his epilepsy nor with his poor naive relationshi ...more
Jun 13, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
This is a book in a series called 33 1/2, put out by continuum. Each of these brief books is a kind of extended essay about the album named in the title. Ott's book discusses the history and musical development of Joy Division, using their first full-length album, Unknown Pleasures, as a focal point. I love Joy Division, so I found this book quite fascinating, and a wonderfully up-close look at the band and their music.
Ott is at his best when discussing Joy Division's progression from a punk ro
Patrick McCoy
Jan 13, 2008 Patrick McCoy rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
I recently saw the film, Control, about the short, tragic life of former Joy Division front man Ian Curtis. I first became interested in Joy Division when I started listening to punk and post-punk music back in high school. One of my early favorites was New Order (the which formed after Curtis’ suicide). I knew that Continuum Books, of the famous 33 1/3 imprimatur, had an edition devoted to Joy Division’s first album. Unknown Pleasures by Chris Ott. Between the book and the movie, both of which ...more
Apr 20, 2010 Wm rated it it was ok
This covers all of Joy Division's oeuvre rather than just the album Unknown Pleasures, which means that it won't be of much interest to the band's die-hard fans unless they are compulsive completists. It is, however, a fairly good introduction if you are intrigued by the story of Ian Curtis and Joy Division, but don't yet know much about, dealing forthrightly with a host of issues related to the band.

That said, there are sections of music criticism, especially of the tracks on Unknown Pleasures
Francois Houle
Mar 17, 2014 Francois Houle rated it liked it
An interesting read about one of the best records of all times. If you are a fan of the band, then you must read it. I truly enjoyed getting to know how different the approach was to making this record and how the band members hated how it sounded. We get a good history of that era from how they started as Warsaw which was a sort of punk band to later become a really unique sounding band. I was lucky to be a teenager back then but unfortunately never saw them since they never came to North Ameri ...more
Nov 15, 2010 Eli added it
For parts of the story missing from Deborah Curtis’s book Touching from a Distance, you could pick up a copy of Chris Ott’s book Unknown Pleasures. This slim tomb (part of the 33 1/3 series) is a quick walk through Joy Division’s short-lived existence. It is amazing when you realize that Joy Division’s evolution happened entirely within a three-year-period. Ott’s book is the place to go if you want stories about the whole band (Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, and Ian Curtis), their M ...more
Jan 18, 2008 Amy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: my sister-in-law
Shelves: 33-1-3
Although the books in the 33 1/3 series are supposed to provide in-depth analysis (or record-geek wankery) on just one album, this slim volume manages to cover just about every note Joy Division recorded, from their scrappy EP as Warsaw through both JD studio albums, the singles, live cuts, and even the first couple New Order songs. Ott also manages to discuss Ian Curtis' personal life and marital troubles, important medical information about epilepsy and its treatment, lots of lyrics, and a lis ...more
Apr 25, 2013 Richard rated it really liked it
While broaching the entire career of Joy Division, as opposed to only those events surrounding the recording and release of Unknown Pleasures, Ott weaves a decent historical relay of the events surrounding this monumental debut release.

The facts are seared into any fan's brain - the disease, the loss, the high-played bass, not releasing albums featuring any singles, Factory Records.

I've read this as part of a trio of Joy Division books, starting with Peter Hook's Unknown Pleasures. Ott's book
Apr 01, 2008 Joshua rated it it was ok
Chris Ott is a clumsy writer who hobbles from distant to-do list recitation of chronological events, to awkwardly placed quotes, to weird, would-be emotive poesy. His pacing sucks, he seems to have no excitement, and he amazingly makes a book about one of the most influential albums and one of the most compelling rock figures into a totally boring read.

And then he has the pretentiousness to include a list of the records he was listening to while he was working on the book.

Laughably shitty book
Will Lynch
Oct 05, 2007 Will Lynch rated it really liked it
If you're a fan of Joy Division, this is a must. Its only 100 pages (and these are tiny pages with regular size print), and provides very interesting insight into the stories behind Unknown Pleasures, as well as the meanings of the songs and how the lyrics of this album in many ways make clear Curtis's developing intention to kill himself. I found it especially interesting how much of the lyrical content is in some way about epilepsy (eg: "I Remember Nothing"-- epileptics never have any memory o ...more
Feb 18, 2009 Bryan rated it it was ok
It's interesting to read one of these buggers about an album you don't really like. Closer is such a better album. I agree with the reviewers on here that the writing is amateurish, and many of the events described a readily available in a lot of different mediums. Oh wait, I thought this was a book about a musical album, not a biography of a singer? It's a shame Martin Hannett never produced Cabaret Voltaire.
Mouldy Squid
Mar 08, 2013 Mouldy Squid rated it really liked it
An excellent, detailed overview of the tragically short career of IanCurtis and Joy Division. Ott carefully describes not only their music but provides insight into the formation and dissolution of one of the most influential bands of the late twentieth century. A must have for devoted fans and those listeners newly come to Joy Division's music.
Jan 31, 2008 Ian rated it really liked it
In addition to giving a nice explanation of the recording of Unknown Pleasures, it's also a godd overview of the band's career and the troubles of Ian Curtis. I would've liked to hear more about Hannett's techniques but there was a good amount of that as well. I love Joy Division though so what the hell do you want?
Feb 08, 2007 Katie rated it liked it
Recommends it for: music enthusiasts

this is a great series. if anyone has any others and wants to trade, i'm down. ALSO, writer folk: continuum is currently, but only for a few more days, having open calls for pitches for their next book. this would probably be completely awesome to work on, so get on it peoples! (see link)
Aug 06, 2008 Nathan rated it liked it
Recommends it for: 24 Hour Party People
Shelves: 33-1-3-series
Have you seen the movie Control? If not, you should. This book reads like the script, which it may have been, since it came out a bit before the aforementioned movie. Good, but not as detailed as others in this series. Sometimes I get weighed down by a lot of the recording processes. I just dig the music man.
Feb 06, 2012 James rated it really liked it
I'm a pedant, so I'm going to specify my rating as 3.5/5. An interesting read: plenty of insightful analysis of the production and creation of almost all the Joy Division songs, not just Unknown Pleasures. The contextual information of the lives of the people involved and their thoughts is informative as well.
Jan 18, 2017 Ugh rated it liked it
Seemingly authoritative and fair-handed (I wouldn't know), interesting and readable enough to finish in one sitting, and informative at least to the otherwise entirely uninformed, but not exactly a work of much art in its own right.
Matt Lohr
Nov 06, 2012 Matt Lohr rated it liked it
They need to let you give half-star ratings, because really, this is a two-and-a-half star book. Joy Division's story is a compelling one, but Ott's book didn't hold my interest the way I had hoped it would.
Apr 20, 2007 Warren rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who's lost control
Shelves: non-fiction
Obssessive dissection of the creation and impact of both Joy Division and the album Unknown Pleasures. Excellent for all JD fans.
Sep 09, 2007 Jamil rated it liked it
Shelves: music, records
the cover art to Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division, "100 consecutive pulses from the pulsar CP 1919" = "the sound of a dying star". "Dance! Dance! Dance! Dance! Dance to the Radio!"
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