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I would have never expected an autobiography from Bernard Sumner. And I'm sure, if it weren't for Peter Hook's recent venture into literature, that might still be a very faint possibility. In his book Bernard explains that, at last, he wants to share his personal experiences that provided the foundation for his music, in order for us to get a better understanding of it. I'm not so sure about that premise: we enjoy this or that music through our own experiences, which most likely are completely different from those of the musicians, and thus irrelevant. Anyway, it was kinda scary to be invited into a singer's brain, especially when that person has been famously reluctant to share his private life. So let's go over a few things: substance and form.
Ever since I read "Raise The Pressure", I knew the lad could write (prose, that is). There's this misconception that talented people of art can sit down and write as well. But poets often turn out to be bad prose writers (and prose writers in most cases are awful poets). I remember being let down by Mark E. Smith's autobiography that felt like it was written with alcohol rather than ink. Bernard, on other hand, delivered. His clear, well-constructed, at times very eloquent--but at times repetitious as well--paragraphs and coherent narration make a pleasant, easy reading. That's important, as there is no co-writer involved (and it'd be safe to assume, no ghost writer either).
Content. The book itself is a beautiful journey from the cobbled streets of Victorian Salford to driving a Mercedes, Elvis style. That Bernard could be a jerk, I suspected, but here he explains why he had to be one: who else would program all these computers to make bearable music? Who else would stop touring to recover from Pernod? Who else would take a grip of Rob Gretton--who was about to throw the band's money into the Hacienda pit of hell? Exactly.
Be aware that Bernard's book is very introspective, so it's rather selective and a lot of things are either left out or, on the contrary, given a disproportionally great detail. For example, a quarter of the book is about his childhood, where he depicts the difficult relationship with his mother, a lot of illness in his family and hopeless school environment; all that must have had a gripping hold over his formative years and it's no wonder that he went off the hook in the 1980s, to reclaim his adolescence, never minding the price of his newly found hedonism. Although Bernard does describe different methodologies of his music writing in Joy Division and in New Order, there's not much background provided for specific songs; he goes at length about recording "Blue Monday", "Confusion" and "World in Motion", and goes on record to explain why he would never be tired of singing "Temptation" -- but that's it. Such important albums as "Power, Corruption & Lies", "Low-life" and "Brotherhood" are completely ignored. There are people who can always tell you precisely when this or that happened; Bernard is not one of them -- dates are not part of his mental landscape (unlike Peter Hook who kept a good track of time in his books).
As far as Peter Hook is concerned, Bernard dedicates numerous pages to his former bandmate, giving us, at last, his side of the story of Hooky's departure. It's also very interesting to learn his vision of the whole Hacienda thing (and compare it with Hooky's memoirs). The most intriguing figure in the book, besides the author, is manager Rob Gretton. Bernard describes him with a lot of respect, yet he finds room to share his eccentric nature (like a story about Rob reading NME from cover to cover to Bernard while the latter was trying to sleep). The most bizarre part in the book is the appendix that includes the complete transcript of the hypnotic session with Ian Curtis held a few weeks before his death.