If the thunderous bassline that kicks off Monaco's debut is unmistakably familiar, it's because the world was first introduced to it in 1979, when Joy Division surfaced with "Unknown Pleasures" on England's cutting-edge Factory Records. A year later, just before the influential post-punk band released the landmark album "Closer," frontman Ian Curtis hanged himself in the basement of his Macclesfield, England, home. Surviving Curtis were guitarist Bernard Sumner, drummer Stephen Morris and the man behind that familiar bassline, Peter Hook.
With Sumner on vocals, the remaining members of Joy Division, plus Morris' girlfriend, Gillian Gilbert, went on to record as New Order, bridging the gap between punk and synth-heavy New Wave, and in the process becoming one of the most successful and critically acclaimed proto-alternative acts. With New Order currently in a holding pattern (they haven't released a record since 1993's "Republic"), Hook enlisted former Revenge bassist David Potts for Monaco, whose New Order-aping sound has sparked a mid-life career revival for Hook. Potts' voice sounds as familiar as Hook's bass, although it hasn't been heard on record before.
"I think the only time I've sung before Monaco is karaoke," Potts says, sitting in A&M Records' midtown Manhattan offices with Hook and Hook's girlfriend (who can't keep their hands off of each other). "I was an altar boy once, but I didn't have to sing."
His voice is recognizable from New Order, a group, incidentally, that he was never even in. In fact, Potts sounds so much like Sumner on Monaco's "Music For Pleasure" that it could easily be mistaken for a factory-fresh New Order album, although the band, unsurprisingly, doesn't see it that way.
"When you got a [bass] style like Peter's, you can play it to any old record and say it sounds like New Order," Potts adds. "And with my range, people say it sounds more like New Order too but what am I going to do, start rapping?"
New Order comparisons aside, the two have formed a unique musical partnership after some time together in Revenge, Hook's early-'90s side project. At 26, Potts is the fresh, virginal younger half of Monaco, while Hook, at a very healthy looking 41, provides parental guidance.
"The age difference doesn't mean a thing really," Potts says. "But he's got the experience -- 20 years worth of experience that doesn't count for s---!"
"But you still don't listen to me, do ya?" Hook retorts, laughing.
For Hook, things have never been better. New Order never racked up as many record sales as glowing reviews, and Monaco's major label deal represents quite a change from folding his own CD sleeves at an English indie label.
"This is one of the only records I've ever made that I can actually sit and listen to," Hook says. "Usually, the New Order records were so bloody angst-ridden, and there was such a black cloud over it with Factory Records and the amount of work you had to do, that you could never actually put the record on. I mean, on our first record [Joy Division's "Unknown Pleasures" - 1979] I had to sit there folding the sleeves for three days and putting the records in and loading up 10,000 friggin' LPs into the back of a van. Now all of the sudden I make a record and someone just says, 'That's a great record, would you like some coffee?'"
Potts, who grew up listening to New Order, first joined up with Hook as a sound engineer for Revenge and then became the group's touring bassist during a 1991 tour of America.
"When I first started working with Peter in the studio with Revenge, I was working *for* him and I didn't necessarily know who he was," he recalls. "Afterwards, we were just working together as friends."
"The iconic part of it doesn't come into it when he's trying to get me out of bed in the morning or trying to make something work in the studio," Hook adds. "I was working with David Bowie, thinking, 'Oh God, David Bowie, he's a God.' But then in the studio, I'd say, 'Dave, are you going to run the bleeding tape or are we just sitting here wasting our time?' That superstar bit doesn't really matter when it comes down to working."
The work that went into "Music for Pleasure" has already won the band two Top 20 hits in the U.K., and Monaco's first single, "What Do You Want From Me," is currently sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-ing all over American radio. As for the fate of New Order, Hook is less than optimistic.
"We had such a difficult time finishing the last record that when it was over, nobody wanted to talk about doing anything. So we haven't."