Closer (Joy Division album)
|Studio album by Joy Division|
|Released||18 July 1980|
|Recorded||18–30 March 1980|
|Studio||Britannia Row Studios, Islington, London, England|
|Joy Division chronology|
Closer is the second and final studio album by the English rock band Joy Division. It was released on 18 July 1980 on Factory Records, following the May 1980 suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis. The album was produced by Martin Hannett and contains a more layered and austere sound than its predecessor, Unknown Pleasures, with synthesizers and studio effects now serving a prominent role. No singles were released from the album. After the posthumous release of Joy Division's only hit "Love Will Tear Us Apart" in June 1980, the remaining members re-formed as New Order.
Today, Closer is widely recognised as a preeminent post-punk release. According to critic Ned Raggett, "Joy Division were at the height of their powers on Closer [...] rock, however defined, rarely seems and sounds so important, so vital, and so impossible to resist or ignore as here."
Writing and recording
Unlike the tracks on "Unknown Pleasures" which were written well before the album, had been played live many times and were fully formed before recording, the material for "Closer" was put together just before or during the band's time in the studio. Most songs were written by jamming in their practice room. Regarding the album's lyrical content, Sumner remarked, "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 produced by Martin Hannett. His production has been highly praised, with Pitchfork describing it as "sepulchral". However, as with their debut album Unknown Pleasures, both Hook and Sumner were unhappy with Hannett's work. 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, its 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 photography by Bernard Pierre Wolff. The photograph on the cover is of the Appiani family tomb in the Cimitero Monumentale di Staglieno in Genoa, Italy. 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!"
Closer was released on 18 July 1980, through the Factory Records label, as a 12" vinyl LP. It reached number 6 on the UK Albums Chart, and spent four weeks at number 1 in Australia. It also peaked at number 3 in New Zealand in September 1981. It claimed the number one slot on NME Album of the Year and Colour Radio 4IP's Album of the Century. The album, along with Unknown Pleasures and Still, was remastered and re-released in 2007. As with Unknown Pleasures and Still, the remaster comes packaged with a bonus live disc, recorded at the University of London.
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–|
|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. At the end of 1980, it was voted the 22th 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.
In his 2007 book, Colin Sharp observed that the album "was undoubtedly a giant leap, not only for Joy Division, but for the through line of rock music, in the broadest sense, and it still casts a shadow over a whole range of genres, groups and artists, be they new goths, emo or indie". Reviewing the album for Smash Hits in 1980, Alastair Macaulay described the album as an "exercise in dark controlled passion" and said that music "stands up on its own as the band's epitaph". In their review of the 2007 reissue of the album, Pitchfork Media 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. Pitchfork listed Closer as the 10th best album of the 1980s. It was placed 72nd on NME's list of the one-hundred greatest British albums ever. In 2003, the album was placed at number 157 on Rolling Stone's list of the five-hundred greatest albums ever. In 2006, Q magazine placed the album at number 8 in its list of the forty best albums of the 1980s. In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at number 7 on its list of the best albums of the 1980s. Sonic Seducer listed it 2nd in their list "10 Key Albums for the Gothic Scene".
|5.||"A Means to an End"||4:07|
|6.||"Heart and Soul"||5:51|
|7.||"Twenty Four Hours"||4:26|
|2007 CD remaster bonus disc (live at University of London Union 8 February 1980)|
|3.||"A Means to an End"||4:00|
|4.||"Twenty Four Hours"||4:05|
|9.||"Love Will Tear Us Apart"||3:13|
|11.||"The Eternal" (encore)||6:30|
Note: the original vinyl disc did not indicate which was side A and which was side B, so the order here was only established at the time of the CD re-release.
- Joy Division
- Ian Curtis – lead vocals, guitar (track 6), melodica (track 9)
- Bernard Sumner – guitar, bass guitar (track 1), synthesizers (tracks 2, 6, 8, and 9)
- Peter Hook – bass guitar, guitar (track 1), six-string bass guitar (tracks 3, 6, and 8)
- Stephen Morris – drums, electronic drums, percussion
- Martin Hannett – production, engineering
- Michael Johnson – engineering assistance
- John Caffery – engineering
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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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