Closer (Joy Division album)
|Studio album by|
|Released||18 July 1980|
|Studio||Britannia Row Studios, Islington|
|Joy Division chronology|
Closer is the second and final studio album by English rock band Joy Division, released on 18 July 1980 by Factory Records. Produced by Martin Hannett, it was Joy Division's first posthumous album and was released two months to the day after the suicide of the band's lead singer and lyricist Ian Curtis; later posthumous Joy Division albums would be released in the form of compilations and live albums.
Following the release of the non-album single "Love Will Tear Us Apart" in June 1980, the remaining members re-formed as New Order. Today, Closer is widely recognised as a seminal release of the post-punk era and has been credited by music analysts as a significant influence on the gothic rock genre.
Writing and recording
The songs on Closer were drawn from two distinct periods. The earlier guitar-driven compositions were written during the latter half of 1979: "Atrocity Exhibition", "Passover", "Colony", "A Means to an End" and "24 Hours". All were played live during that year, with some being recorded for various radio sessions. The album's other songs were written in early 1980, and included more prominent use of synthesisers: "Isolation", "Heart and Soul", "The Eternal" and "Decades". Most songs were written or structured during jam sessions in the band's practice room.
Regarding the album's lyrical content, Bernard Sumner recollected: "We'd go to rehearsals and sit around and talk about really banal things. We'd do that until we couldn't talk about banal things any more, then we'd pick up our instruments and record into a little cassette player. We didn't talk about the music or the lyrics very much. We never analysed it."
Closer was recorded between 18–30 March 1980 at Britannia Row Studios in Islington, London. It was produced by Martin Hannett. His production has been highly praised, with Pitchfork describing it as "sepulchral." However, as with their debut album, both Hook and Sumner were unhappy with Hannett's work. Peter Hook later complained that the track "Atrocity Exhibition" was mixed on one of his days off, and when he heard the final product was disappointed that the abrasiveness of his guitar part had been laden with effects and toned down. He wrote; "I was like, head in hands, oh fucking hell, it's happening again. Unknown Pleasures number two ... Martin [Hannett] had melted the guitar with his Marshall Time Waster. Made it sound like somebody strangling a cat, and to my mind, absolutely killed the song. I was so annoyed with him and went in and gave him a piece of my mind but he just turned around and told me to fuck off."
The album cover was designed by Martyn Atkins and Peter Saville, with a photograph of the Appiani family tomb in Genoa's Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno adorning much of the sleeve. The image itself was taken by Bernard Pierre Wolff in 1978. In a 2007 documentary on the band, designer Peter Saville commented that he, upon learning of singer Ian Curtis's suicide, expressed immediate concern over the album's design as it depicted a funeral theme, remarking "we've got a tomb on the cover of the album!"[n 1]
Closer was released on 18 July 1980 by Factory Records, as a 12" vinyl LP. The album reached No. 6 on the UK Albums Chart. It also peaked at No. 3 in New Zealand in September 1981. Closer was also named NME Album of the Year. The album, along with Unknown Pleasures and Still, was remastered and re-released in 2007. As with Unknown Pleasures and Still, the remaster was packaged with a bonus live disc, recorded at the University of London Union.
Factory boss Tony Wilson was pleased with the final album and predicted it would be a commercial success. Sumner recalled him saying at the time, "You know Bernard, this time next year you'll be lounging by a swimming pool in LA with a cocktail in your hand." Sumner was less optimistic and "just thought it was the most utterly ridiculous thing anyone had ever said to me."
|Christgau's Record Guide||A−|
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|Spin Alternative Record Guide||10/10|
At the time of release, Sounds critic Dave McCullough wrote that there were "dark strokes of gothic rock" on Closer. He described the album as "breathtaking rock music, a peak of current peaks, a sharing of something that's in [...] others at this time, but at the same time defining those black notions and leaving them unmatched." Writing for Smash Hits, Alastair Macaulay described the album as an "exercise in dark controlled passion" and wrote that its music "stands up on its own as the band's epitaph". Writing for Melody Maker, Paolo Hewitt described the album as "probably some of the most irresistible dance music we'll hear this year [and] a far cry for sure from the almost suffocating claustrophobic world of the debut album," adding that "the best (and most subversive?) rock music has always dealt head-on with emotions and thought rather than cliched, standardised stances; that's what makes Closer and Joy Division so important."
At the end of 1980, Closer was voted the 22nd best record of the year in the Pazz & Jop, an annual poll of American critics published by The Village Voice. Robert Christgau, the poll's supervisor, deemed the album an improvement over Unknown Pleasures in a retrospective review: "Curtis's torment is less oppressive here because it's less dominant—the dark, roiling, off-center rhythms have a life of their own. And if last time the dancier material had hooks, this time even the dirges have something closely resembling tunes. Rolling Stone's Mikal Gilmore, in a 1981 profile of the band's work, wrote: "The music turns leaden, gray and steady because it means to fulfill a vision of a world where suffering is unremitting and nothingness is quiescent." 2005 book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die defines Closer a "quantum leap" in terms of progression when compared to the band's debut album. According to Colin Larkin, Closer has since been "deservedly regarded by many critics as the most brilliant rock album of the 80s"; Larkin himself found the record flawless, writing in his Encyclopedia of Popular Music (2011) that it showed Joy Division at their creative peak and "maturity in every area" of their music. In his review of the 2007 reissue of the album, Pitchfork critic Joshua Klein described the album as "even more austere, more claustrophobic, more inventive, more beautiful and more haunting than its predecessor", calling it "Joy Division's start-to-finish masterpiece; a flawless encapsulation of everything the group sought to achieve."
The album has been highly acclaimed, and is often cited as Joy Division's finest work. Fact's Mark Fisher wrote that the album is "often considered the crown jewel of post-punk." Rapper Danny Brown named his fourth album after the song "Atrocity Exhibition". In 1984, singer George Michael praised the album upon a music discussion programme. In 1995, Closer was ranked one of the top alternative albums ever to be released by Spin magazine, at No. 69. In 2002 Pitchfork listed it as the 10th best album of the 1980s. In 2003, the album placed at No. 157 on Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". In 2006, it placed 72nd on NME's list of the 100 greatest British albums ever and Q magazine placed it at No. 8 in its list of the 40 best albums of the 1980s. In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at No. 7 on its list of the best albums of the 1980s. Sonic Seducer listed it at No. 2 in their list "10 Key Albums for the Gothic Scene".
Posthumously, the band released "Closer", which had already been recorded and featured an even darker, doomed Curtis and a total abandonment of the punk aesthetic for a more unearthly, primeval sound. By 1982, the album had sold over 250,000 copies worldwide, with another posthumous single, "Love Will Tear Us Apart", having sold over 160,000 copies.
All songs written by Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Bernard Sumner.
|5.||"A Means to an End"||4:07|
|6.||"Heart and Soul"||5:51|
|7.||"Twenty Four Hours"||4:26|
Note: the original vinyl disc only contained a small etching on the disk marking the A and B sides.
|2007 CD remaster bonus disc (live at the University of London Union, 8 February 1980)|
|1.||"Dead Souls" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)||4:59|
|2.||"Glass" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)||3:42|
|3.||"A Means to an End" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)||4:01|
|4.||"Twenty Four Hours" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)||4:06|
|5.||"Passover" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)||4:54|
|6.||"Insight" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)||4:01|
|7.||"Colony" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)||4:04|
|8.||"These Days" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)||4:17|
|9.||"Love Will Tear Us Apart" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)||3:14|
|10.||"Isolation" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)||4:42|
|11.||"The Eternal" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)||6:30|
|12.||"Digital" (recorded live at the University of London Union on 8 February 1980)||3:14|
- Ian Curtis – lead vocals, guitar (track 6), melodica (track 9)
- Bernard Sumner – guitar (all except track 1 and 6), bass guitar (track 1), synthesizers (tracks 2, 6, 8, and 9)
- Peter Hook – bass guitar (all except track 1), guitar (track 1), six-string bass guitar (tracks 3, 6, and 8)
- Stephen Morris – drums (all except 2 and 9), electronic drums (tracks 2, 4, 8, 9), percussion (all except 2)
- Martin Hannett – production, engineering
- Michael Johnson – engineering assistance
- John Caffery – engineering
- The decision to have this photograph adorn the front cover of Closer had been agreed to by all four members of the band; the sleeve itself was designed prior to Curtis's suicide.
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Young men in dark silhouettes, some darker than others, looking inwards, looking out, discovering the same horror and describing it with the same dark strokes of gothic rock.
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