By interviewing remaining members and those who bore witness, Savage’s oral history of the band carefully connects the dots ... how do four young men from the working class, in one of the toughest parts of a tough country, almost suddenly create not only some of the most enduring music from the late 1970s and early 1980s but also easily one of the most astonishing debut albums ever, Unknown Pleasures? In the pages of This Searing Light, we get many clues from the testimonies of those in close proximity to the band ... As matter-of-fact as the interviews are, and as carefully as Savage has laid out his case, the 'how' of the band's amazing music is all but impossible to put your finger on ... This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else brings us a little closer to understanding the band and its incredible music.
Joy Division are now a global brand. Here, Jon Savage restores them to the local – to the time, place and people who shaped them ... Whether or not the material is familiar, Savage’s thoughtful orchestration of the band’s oral history is illuminating. It muddies the clean lines of their now mythical narrative, chronicling the false starts, the ejected founder members, the different looks and names ... These interviews and anecdotes map what they came out of without forcing an explanation of how or why ... These interviews are a precious archive.
This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else...walks familiar ground, then. Yet the oral-history format lends a warmth and flexibility that prevents it becoming just another grim rattle of the ossuary. The band are natural raconteurs, dry, funny, self-aware, and the testimony of friends, associates and 'witnesses' adds new perspective ... What comes across strongly here, however, is how painfully young they all were, how ill-equipped to help, how deeply regretful afterwards ... This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else, though, once again lets the life back into the story. It’s all the more devastating for that.
Reading the fragmentary testimonies in This Searing Light, The Sun and Everything Else, Jon Savage’s oral history of Joy Division, I was put in mind of 'Cold Dark Matter,' the 1991 installation by the British artist Cornelia Parker ... Savage’s book is excellent. With Joy Division, eventually, words peter out or fritter away into uselessness. Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying ... everything partial, broken, everything occluded in some respect, the oral-history method makes more and more sense.
Drawing on a cut-up compositional technique favoured by Curtis the lyricist, Savage juxtaposes voices and memories, fashioning his material into the story of a highly sensitive 'genius' lost to the world before his time. The book functions as both celebration and catharsis for the author, who seems to be trying to make sense of Curtis’s death for himself. One consequence of this approach is that the women interviewed are largely either props or foils ... While this valuable oral history may seem definitive, there are other perspectives that need to be brought out into the light.
This Searing Light concisely and chronologically re-tells the brief but spectacular story of this enormously influential band ... Testimony comes from a modest but authoritative chorus of voices, including surviving band members Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris ... Surprisingly, we also hear from several key players who have been gone for some time ... Additionally, many other interviews and articles spanning decades are quoted throughout, as is Deborah Curtis’s book, all of which give the book a somewhat cobbled-together feeling ... Fans of the band will delight in the intimacy of the many stories and anecdotes ... It was particularly fascinating to read the considerable accounts from the surviving band members ... We really get to know them as ordinary young men who like to drink beer, play pranks on one another, work boring day jobs, and struggle to grow up ... The blame, such as it is, is shared widely, and there is a sense throughout the book of a collective reckoning ... This Searing Light, The Sun And Everything Else represents the consolidated authoritative history of this important band, and as such it may in fact prove to be the last word on the topic. For fans of Joy Division, and of punk, post-punk, and British music generally, this is a must read.
... riveting ... a revealing portrait of four young musicians and the dynamic music scene in Manchester ... Joy Division recorded only two albums but deserve to be better known. This title will appeal to anyone interested in punk, post-punk, and 1970s rock music.
A deep dive into one of rock music’s most path-breaking bands and cautionary tales ... Savage’s quote-selection process emphasizes the youthfulness and naiveté of the band ... Neither easy hagiography or melancholy Curtis elegy, but a sober and illuminating account of a brilliant band’s too-short career.